Sins of Omission
One of the reasons that Red Maryland was formed over seven years ago was to provide a conservative perspective on news and opinion here in the state of Maryland. While the media market was dominated by the Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post, there were still other independent newspaper outlets that provided news coverage on our state, particularly the General Assembly and State Politics.
Over the last few years, that trend has been changing thanks to consolidation and the changing of the business practices of some publications:
- The Baltimore Examiner and Patch.com both went out of business
- The Gazette newspapers stopped providing as much political coverage in Annapolis;
- The Baltimore Sun gobbled up the Annapolis Capital, Carrol County Times, and the City Paper.
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Some of the stories that are being covered include:
- A story (noted above) about Larry Hogan’s weight loss;
- A feature about the Hogan Campaign’s RV;
- John Wagner’s scintillating pice about Larry Hogan playing on a claw machine.
- The record of dirty campaigning from Anthony Brown’s campaign manager;
- A damning analysis of the recent New York Times poll;
- The coordination between Anthony Brown’s campaign and a Democratic Super PAC;
- Senator Ed Kasemeyer doing the bidding of his wife’s client.
There are a lot of great investigative journalists in these town. The problem is that none of them get their stories in front of enough eyes or have enough time to get into the detailed analysis necessary to get their point of cross. Jayne Miller, David Collins, and the folks at the I-Team on WBAL are damn fine investigative journalists. And we already know that they can make politicians squirm when they call them on the carpet:
Same goes for the folks over at WBFF as well. But there is only so much detail and so much of the story that you can present in a 3-5 minute TV news package.
Written word journalists have plenty of time and space to tell their stories, particularly of the online variety. The leading sources of stories regarding issues or deep analysis of politics and issues can often be found here at Red Maryland, on Baltimore Brew, or over at Maryland Reporter. But again, despite high readership, the stories only reach so far, even accounting for social media shares.
The one print outlet in town that was getting into the weeds (no pun intended) was the City Paper. But they are another outlet that was recently gobbled up by the Baltimore Sun, leaving it questionable how long that practice will continue.
The most damning part about the Sun’s lack of coverage on these issues themselves. An editorial from Thursday’s paper lamented that the Brown campaign was in a race to define Hogan and that their view was “Hogan needs to flesh out his platform, lest his opponent do it for him”:
Mr. Hogan’s entire platform, in so far as he has described it, is to cut spending and taxes and to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses — and he hasn’t even been particularly specific about any of that. Granted, we agree that issues of taxes, spending and Maryland’s economic competitiveness are crucial and deserve to be front and center in this campaign. But there’s more to being governor than that. What Mr. Hogan needs to realize here is that if he doesn’t clearly define his positions on the wide range of issues that matter to Marylanders, the Brown campaign is going to do it for him, and in the most unflattering terms possible.
Of course the Hogan Campaign has been doing this for months, taking every opportunity they get to talk about the O’Malley-Brown record, taxes, and how things would be different on day one as Governor. The only problem is that the editors in the newsroom at the Baltimore Sun aren’t giving those stories nearly as much ink (or any ink at all) when compared to stories about the RV, about weight loss, etc. Just look at the September 17th story about the Hogan campaign call for an investigation in Brown’s Super PAC Coordination and compare it with the story I wrote on the issue September 12th, which actually contained some analysis of the facts and included campaign finance information from the Brown campaign and the Super PAC.
The lack of ability for the Hogan campaign to get their message out is closely related to the sins of omission that News Editors at the Sun and other papers are making by choosing to focus on other things. The Sun’s slogan may be “Light for All”, but it’s proven to be anything but.
That’s something that the Sun can get away with in a one newspaper town like this one. Back before 1986, there were three newspapers in town; The Sun, The Evening Sun, and the News-American. With the three papers (The Sun and Evening Sun were run separately) there was competition in the marketplace and reporters would, by necessity, have to dig deep to find the stories that were important to their readers and provided their paper with an edge up. But with the closing of the News-American in 1986, and the end of the Evening Sun in 1995, we’ve been pretty much a one newspaper town since. Even the Baltimore Examiner, during its time, never seriously challenged the Sun’s hegemony.
The problem, in today’s times, is the fact that there really aren’t good solutions available yet to create competition and counteract this problem. We’re working on them, I assure you, as are others. We are looking for new ways to spread our stories, and our pieces, and try to bring them to more eyeballs. That’s what a lot of our affiliation with the Liberty Alliance is about. But as far as widespread distribution of the news, your choices right now are television and newspaper. And circulation numbers (particularly with the Baltimore Sun) will show you that the daily newspaper business is dying.
With the Baltimore Sun still for sale, there is hope that a new buyer will be found for it who will bring in new leadership that will change the focus of the news room toward printing more actual news and leaving the nonsense for other folks. Because short of somebody starting a new daily newspaper in this state and focusing on the issues that matter, we’re stuck with what we’re stuck with. All we can do is encourage leadership at the Baltimore Sun and Washington Post to fix the mess they’ve created, and to continue working alongside our fellow online journalists reporting the stories that the big boys seem reticent to report.