Is The Baltimore Sun Headed Back to Its Bad Old Days?

–Richard E. Vatz

In 2006 The Baltimore Sun went through the entire gubernatorial election year through November without a kind word, much less a positive article, on its op-ed pages in favor of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich (there was one flattering remark in an op-ed piece, but it did not mention Gov. Ehrlich by name). I know for a fact that The Sun received such submissions, but the paper printed not a one and solicited none either, while printing favorable article after article regarding his opponent.

The Sun’s news pages, including the front section and the Maryland section, were embarrassingly one sided and, of course, its editorial page was all pro-candidate Mayor Martin O’Malley, the last example being the only ethically justifiable journalistic crusading.

Since then, the editorial page has improved, with The Sun having cashiered some of its worst journalists and editors there, including editor Dianne Donovan and her acolytes, as well as her replacement, and Donovan’s unprofessional letters-to-the-editor editor. The Sun to be fair also got rid of some of its most flagrantly left-wing reporters, the worst being Jennifer Skalka, who, if there’s any justice in the journalistic world, is no longer compromising the truth or near-truth in any major paper.

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As I read The Sun today, however, I wondered, “Good Lord, are we back to one-sided, profoundly biased journalism in The Baltimore Sun’s news pages?” The news column today by Larry Carson, “O’Malley Called Eager to Face Ehrlich,” is a piece given entirely to uncritical – with the exception of one quote by Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell — reporting on the O’Malley campaign and its talking points by focusing almost exclusively on a pro-O’Malley interpretation of the upcoming election by the governor’s campaign manager, Tom Russell.

There was no journalistic posing of critical questions whatsoever from the writer. He could have asked Russell whether it was necessary for Gov. O’Malley to visit troops specifically while the General Assembly was in session. When Russell listed Gov. O’Malley’s accomplishments, a good journalist would have asked this aide whether, and if so, why, the Democrats were obstructionist on slots until a Democratic Governor took office and how this has hurt Maryland fiscally. Carson should have asked whether the reliances on one-time federal aid were wise to use to create long-term financial state burdens. He should have asked whether Gov. O’Malley is newly “vulnerable,” as Russell maintains Gov. Ehrlich is. He should have asked Russell whether the Democratic campaigning, such as the use of and accompanying, unsavory personal attacks, is consistent with politically ethical conventions.

Mr. Carson should have asked something, or at least have allowed some Republicans (in addition to Fawell’s one observation) to weigh in on those and other matters relevant to the article.

Almost no criticism or quotes from conservatives and no hard questions for the liberal subject of the piece – is this the new, improved Sun journalistic coverage, a paean to the Democratic gubernatorial campaign?

Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric in his Persuasion course at Towson University

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