Media Watch VI-A on the Race for Maryland’s Governorship: Addendum Regarding the Sun Editorial Page

–Richard E. Vatz

Red Maryland has provided six “Media Watch” articles (actually seven; one was not so labeled and predated the betterment to which the following six attested) on the general improvement and fairness of liberal-conservative political coverage throughout The Baltimore Sun, and I should like to add a clarification.

As I indicated in this series, it genuinely appears that the Dianne Donovan-Ann Lolordo era of The Baltimore Sun yellow editorialists is over.

What does this mean for the editorial page and what does it not mean?

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The Sun editorial board no doubt roots as hard for Gov. O’Malley over ex-Governor Robert L. Ehrlich in 2010 as it did in the 2006 governor’s contest. A perusal of the members of the editorial staff reveals die-hard liberals and no die-hard conservatives; in fact, there appears to be no conservatives whatsoever.

What the Sun has shed is its outright dishonesty in covering the issues of the race. Thus, while for several years there was virtually no mention of the O’Malley failed promise to reverse the 72% price increase of BG&E, no mention of the 2003-2006 Democratic slots political rigmarole designed to hurt a Republican governor and the state-be-damned, no mention even of the claims of wealthy Marylanders moving out of the state and little mention of the rise in sales taxes or corporate taxes, that situation is no longer the case.

Sun editorials no longer simply ignore Democratic political irresponsibility.

But let’s not let “very good” be inferred from “significantly better.”

Let’s look at today’s top Sun editorial, “Gubernatorial adwatch [sic],” as a representative example of the Sun’s changes on that page, but not evidence of a transformation for the better.

The editorial argues that “Despite the negative tone of the advertising war between Martin O’Malley and Bob Ehrlich, they’re mostly sticking to the truth.”

This is a false equivocation of slights.

But whatever else one says about that sub-head, it is more evenhanded than any sentiment expressed in 2002 or 2006 or through 2008 regarding the Maryland gubernatorial elections.

The article says that “negative spots” have hit both O’Malley and Ehrlich, but that the criticism has “generally been accurate and above the belt.”

The article references the use in an O’Malley ad of the truly fair and excellent Maryland Public Television host of “State Circle,” Jeff Salkin, asking Gov. Ehrlich about the difference between fees and taxes. The editorial points out that its editing by the O’Malley camp “to make his question seem more accusatory than it was” “was unfair to Mr. Salkin,” but “not unfair to Mr. Ehrlich.”


The unfairness of distorting editing of a recipient of state funding, MPT’s Salkin, is not over the top? It is “not unfair” to Gov. Ehrlich, and the first O’Malley ads which quoted Gov. Ehrlich out of context reflecting on his earnings were “generally…accurate?”

The claim that “Gov. Ehrlich” raised college tuition that was “technically not true” is “close enough,” according to the editorial, and it’s okay that the Sun never investigated how Maryland universities have been devastated by the tuition freeze of four years?

The rhetorical expropriation by Gov. O’Malley of Gov. Ehrlich’s “signature achievement” in allowing charter schools is “accurate and above the belt?”

And where is there any real equivalent negativism thus far in the Ehrlich ads?

The Sun editorial page 2002-2008 versus today: vive la change, but let’s not expect any semblance of serious even-handedness.

It just seems that way because the Sun editorial page was so horrible during most of the 2000’s.

–Professor Vatz is professor of political rhetoric at Towson University

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