Will Maryland Matters Matter?

Earlier this week, this tweet raised a few eyebrows

It was a surprise that Kurtz left Center Maryland. Of course, it shouldn’t have been; a cursory glance at Center Maryland’s site shows little, if any, new original content and merely exists as a news aggregation website. That Center Maryland itself is no great loss to the state; its “News Straight Down the Middle” concept was bollocks, given that it existed primarily to serve as the Maryland Democratic Party propaganda outlet and to provide an outlet to give clients of KO Public Affairs positive publicity. Its only redeeming quality was when our former colleague Mark Newgent filleted KO Public Affairs in a Baltimore Sun column that had the Center Maryland backers threatening a lawsuit against the Sun. Click here to see Center Maryland’s sordid history.

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As it turns out, one of the reasons that Kurtz has cut ties with Center Maryland was unveiled in post over a left-wing outlet The Seventh State, which revealed that Kurtz is trying to create a new online news outlet named Maryland Matters:

The concept of Maryland Matters is to have a lean, online news operation that would provide objective reporting and, eventually, commentary.  Kurtz would like to have five full-time reporters, a couple of editors and a few business and technology people when the site is fully built out.  Revenue would come from contributions that would be matched by a family foundation…

Kurtz apparently has been thinking about this for awhile; a registered the domain for his new outfit last September.

While Adam Pagnucco claims that the idea is to be an “online news operation” it appears based on the financial backers that Maryland Matters is intended to be another left-wing media outlet, somewhat of a Center Maryland on steroids with original reporter. Some of the project’s backers on the Steering Committee include:

  • Former Congressman Michael Barnes;
  • Former Maryland Democratic Party Chairman Terry Lierman
  • Delegate Bill Bronrott
  • Anne Arundel County Councilman Chris Trumbauer
  • Montgomery County Councilman Steven Silverman
  • Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin

The only notable Republican on the list is former Congresswoman Connie Morella; hardly herself a conservative.

Also of note on this committee is lobbyist Len Lucchi, a lobbyist who is a sycophant of left-wing activist Vinny DeMarco. Remember that DeMarco himself takes money from big tobacco while lobbying for higher tobacco taxes, and has a sordid history all of his own. Lucchi’s clients include a litany of left-wing interests, including  SEIU Local 199, the pro-assisted suicide group Compassion and Choices, renteseeking green energy companies Salt of the Earth and Solar City, and DeMarco outfits Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative Education Fund and Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence .

Amusingly enough, Pagnucco has covered this issue before. Maryland Reporter is the only other comparable news outlet that is doing original reporting along with selected editorials and commentary. In 2009, Pagnucco wrote two pieces that went after Maryland Reporters and its backers and organization that questioned Maryland Reporter’s relationship with conservative leaning organizations like the Franklin Center and if Maryland Reporter was a front for conservative groups. Pagnucco seems to not be terribly concerned with what seems to be a baked in bias for this nascent organization based solely on the steering committee that is helping to get it off the ground.

The addition of a new news site, even one with a leftward bent, is a benefit to the state of Maryland. I wrote two years ago about the lack of local news coverage in state and local politics, something that we attempted to remedy with our Citizen News Project. The fact that a new site, which like most of the online sites covering Maryland wears its bias openly, will be a  new source of information in an environment that desperately needs it is a positive thing. However, it seems like Kurtz’s model, based on its backers, has a genesis not in local news content, but in the Governor’s Mansion. Instead of being focused on news delivery, the timing of its launch seems to indicate that the left remains terrified of Governor Larry Hogan’s approval ratings and his likely re-election; so terrified that the left needs to give supplemental funding to local media to cover the Governor from “their” perspective. While that may work for the insider baseball Annapolis salon crowd that is infatuated with itself, it probably won’t move the needle with the 72% of Maryland’s electorate that supports the Governor.

I, for one, look forward to the project launching but I’m tempering my expectations. I wish Josh Kurtz well with it. In the meantime, we at Red Maryland will be celebrating the fact that Center Maryland is dead and buried once and for all.

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