Some in the news media are in a snit because Gov. Andrew Cuomo uses his Blackberry to send messages and make telephone calls instead of using the state email system.
The Blackberry, you see, does not make a permanent record of those calls and messages. But the state email system not only makes a record, those emails are preserved forever and might have to be released for all to read if the public or press file Freedom of Information inquiries.
The chief criticism seems to be that the governor campaigned on promises of having an open and transparent government.
It is as if we in the media think that ''transparency in government'' means complete access to every conversation and communication the governor has.
Yes, we know that investigators' access to old email has uncovered criminal conduct by public officials. But we also know that it would be nigh on impossible for an executive to function if he lost the ability to work out compromises by talking with others in confidence, or to seek information and advice or to manage personnel.
We feel duty bound to add that with even the slightest degree of self-awareness, we in the media ought to realize the demands of instant dissemination of the news 24 hours a day has produced a penchant for taking things out of context and blowing them out of proportion, which adds to the problem.
But more to the point, we do not understand how anyone can think that ''transparency in government" means complete access to every conversation, whether by phone, texting or email, the governor has with everyone, day in and day out.
Yes, of course Gov. Cuomo is using a Blackberry to achieve some level of confidential discourse. But that is not a measure of "transparency in government." Rather, transparency means citizens having access to information they need to understand what their government is doing - how and why decisions are made and what they mean, balanced against privacy rights and needs.
Transparency does not mean the public knowing about and having access to the initial contact the governor has with a candidate he is considering for appointment as the next superintendent of the state Department of Transportation, for example.
However, transparency does mean the public having easy access to information about precisely how and why project specifications were included in bid requests by the state DOT. The public needs this information to understand whether the bidding process is fair, whether specifications were written by the DOT to favor one bidder over the other, whether the contract was awarded to the firm best able to do the work for the least amount of money.
The brouhaha about the Blackberry is a distraction. Intense scrutiny and incisive reporting about the workings of state government by the Albany press corps will do more to insure transparency than will the governor using the state email system.