The Baltimore City Paper tries to uncover the details behind WYPR's controversial firing of Marc Steiner back in February, but without much success:
Though little known even now, the CEM [A production company founded by Steiner] appears to be a part of the dispute that caused Steiner's abrupt exit from Baltimore's National Public Radio affiliate on Feb. 1. But the CEM's finances are murky, and Steiner's own financial arrangements with WYPR (88.1 FM) are more complex than many realize. Steiner can't explain how CEM spent thousands of dollars, and he says any focus on his WYPR contract misses the real issues surrounding his dismissal, which center on the direction and character of the station's programming, and on the outsized ego of WYPR President Anthony Brandon.
And these, too, appear to have been factors.
Nevertheless, the article gives a good read of where things stand vis-à-vis Steiner, WYPR management, and the many WYPR listeners outraged by the firing. Check it out.
Aaaaah.....the Sunday paper. Lots of ads. The comics. And controversy.
1. FOR THIS WE HAVE THE FIRST AMENDMENT???? The Capital now has the local hospital writing, laying out and paying for the "Health and Fitness" page. Editor Tom Marquardt admits he is "not entirely comfortable with the arrangement" after stating that, "We don't have a health reporter to write about medical issues..." Tom, that's the problem! Get a health reporter! Oh, that would cost money while the new arrangement makes money. Hmmm.
Maybe they should try this model in the entertainment section. The restaurants could write their own reviews. What about with government? Fire the local government reporters and just have the mayor and county executive's staff send in a report every day with a check. After that, we'll just change the name of the newspaper to more accurately reflect the collusion between the state and the media. We'll call the paper PRAVDA. It means "truth" On the other, the paper is considering welcoming columnist Amy Goodman as a regular contributor. That would be a most welcome and interesting development.
2. WHEN THE SCHUH IS ON THE OTHER FOOT.... In a guest editorial, Delegate Steve Schuh of elitist, gated Gibson Island protests that "...Maryland is dominated by the Democratic Party". That's because the people elected them Delegate Schuh. Poor Mr. Schuh is upset about partisanship. I guess those folks on Gibson Island who have been used to owning everything for so long now think the system is unfair once it starts allowing for other to compete with them to own a piece of the big pie.
He notes how 73% of General Assembly members are Democrats. Yeah--well that's because the people elected 73% of them as Democrats. He is upset that leaders of both houses of Maryland's legislature, as well as cabinet members and judges are Democrats. That's the system Mr. Shuh and it was done just the opposite way when Mr. Ehrlich was governor. Did you complain about partisanship control at that time? I don't recall Mr. Schuh complaining about this when George Bush Inc. owned the White House and both houses of Congress. Nor did he complain when both houses of Congress conspired to keep Bill Clinton from being more effective. Mr. Schuh failed to mention how our county is headed up a Republican and the majority of the County Council is Republican as well. Does that not reflect a Republican majority? Nor did he mention that until recently, our governor was a Republican.
I guess it's too bad for Mr. Schuh that Gibson Island cannot be a state. That would certainly guarantee a Republican majority.
3. A MESSIANIC SCIENCE TEACHER AT ANNAPOLIS HIGH.....We read with little more than a raise eyebrow about this one in today's paper until we came to the part where this supposed science teacher said he considers his teaching "to be one form of ministry." Uh oh. CP promises to look into this more....
I have a soft spot for the Washington Post, despite the various heresies of their editorial page on issues I care about, like, for instance, whether teachers deserve to be paid. Soft spot aside, I think they've been smart to embrace blogs on their website, and Maryland Moment is smack dab in the middle of my favorites list. But it's interesting to me that they haven't taken off in the way I expect they would. Post reporters have access to news stories and newmakers beyond what any volunteer blogger can muster. And yet, their comments pages are often slim on reader responses (as are ours, I'll admit).
So here's my little note of assistance to the Post (who I'm certain don't read this blog): The WashingtonPost.com's loose policy on comments means they have less reader feedback than Ficker feedback. For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, Robin Ficker is the most annoying man in Montgomery County, and perhaps the universe. He's run for Montgomery County executive a dozen times or so, one of those perennial ego candidates that makes you question democracy. So Maryland Moment is periodically plagued by some mildly delusional comment from Ficker, and, when someone steps up to disagree with him, a dozen really obvious sockpuppets pop up to support Ficker. Geeky lingo warning: a sock puppet is a false identity created by a user to submit comments supportive of themselves of their ideas under the pretense of being a third party.
Or, to better understand what I mean, look here. 1. Ficker states his support for a wingnut candidate for the council special election. 2. A couple other commenters call Ficker an idiot. 3. Not one, not two, but six consecutive comments with fairly obviously made up names follow, all in support of Ficker's guy. One even calls the real commenters the KKK. Because, you see, it's racist to dislike Robin Ficker, who's whiter than whipped cream. And bizarrely, Ficker often uses Hispanic names when creating these sock puppets.
Point is this: if the Post wants to create a real online community that allows actual debate on their blogs, they're going to have to go after the Robin Fickers of the world. They'll need to look at banning users who create sock puppets. Whether they care to do that, or have the savvy, is another question. But until then, their attempt at replicating real blogging communities is going to completely stall out.
Brian Morton uses the firing of Marc Steiner from WYPR as a jumping off point for a discussion of the rarity of having an actual bona fide liberal in the media:
Conservatives have built their towering media machine, starting with the message mavens on K Street and the $25 million-plus budget of the Heritage Foundation, onto the Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal, through the radio shows of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage (the top six talk radio hosts in America are right wingers, according to Talkers magazine), and with the help of Fox News and Bill O'Reilly. They know there's no shortage of places to find their particular brand of political ideology. So what's with the rancor that liberals have a place on their airwaves?
It was only in 2006 when the powers-that-be at MSNBC started seeing the rise in popularity of host Keith Olbermann--not someone you could classically call a liberal, but someone who insisted on using his platform to hold the Bush administration to account for all of the excuses and shifting rationales behind the Iraq War, the fired U.S. attorney scandal, the deplorable conditions at Walter Reed and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, among others. But in 2003, when the Dixie Chicks were made persona non grata in the world of country music (and the larger world of pop radio) and questioning the administration was considered tantamount to treason, Olbermann said that his superiors at the network were angry with him when he featured two liberals on their air back-to-back.
It's now 2008, and we have both a Democratic House and Senate--but unlike five years ago when Olbermann pissed off the network brass by having Janeane Garofalo and Al Franken on one after the other, you don't see that kind of programming happening on the air.
Despite the sea change in public opinion after what Republicans have done to the country over eight years, the media is still living in the frightened grip of pro-business conservatives and right-wingers who do not see liberal points of view as legitimate ones. In some places, and predominantly in the media, "liberal" is a word to be avoided as much as it was back in the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan first made it a dirty word.
I know alot of Baltimore progressive activists have recently been up in arms about the firing of Marc Steiner from WYPR. There have been petitions and protests and talks about storming the community advisory board meeting this month. To be honest, I could care less that Steiner lost his job..
WYPR announced today that Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks will replace Marc Steiner, the talk-show host the station fired just days ago.
"I think he does great radio," said Andy Bienstock, WYPR's programming director and vice president. "He was my first choice."
Rodricks will start in Steiner's noon to 2 p.m. time slot on Feb. 25.
Odd, given that Rodricks objected to Steiner's firing when it happened. Odder still, given that one of the knocks against Steiner was that he was too focused on Baltimore (according to this article) at a time when WYPR was trying to broaden its scope to include all of Maryland. Rodricks will no doubt make a good radio host, but he's definitely a journalist with a Baltimore focus, just like Steiner. I imagine more details about the selection will emerge soon.
This is unbelievable. Marc Steiner is not just a Baltimore institution, but -- since the expansion of WYPR to Frederick and Ocean City -- a Maryland one as well. It's shocking that he would be let go so unceremoniously. Dan Rodricks captures my thoughts on this quite well:
The dumping of Marc Steiner as host of the midday show at WYPR-FM -- a public-radio station that very likely would not exist were it not for him -- is sad and infuriating. Steiner was blessed with the brains, heart, pipes and civic interest for a great talk-show host, and he had a long run of good work. Instead of fixing whatever ailed the show, the station management decided to dump the host.
We have the station's board president, a PR woman, saying Steiner's "ratings" had dropped. I can't be the only person who read about Steiner's dumping in The Sun and got confused over the words "ratings" and "public radio" in the same sentence. Public radio is supposed to be immune from the pressures that influence commercial broadcasting.
No doubt there are a number of complicating factors involved here, as Rodrick acknowledges, but the way in which WYPR management is handling the matter is rather ham-fisted, I think.
So let me get this straight: The Annapolis Capital reports on a possible controversy involving the Center for Climate Strategies, a consulting group that has been working with a number of states, including Maryland, on developing climate change legislation. Specifically, the supposed controversy is that CCS, while claiming to be an impartial source of information on climate change science and policy, is in fact a front group for radical environmentalists. And who are the article's sources for this claim? A pair of fringe right-wing bloggers (Mark and David, I'm looking at you) still living in denial about climate change, and a guy from the right-wing John Locke Foundation, a organization that has been funded heavily over the years, albeit indirectly, by oil and coal companies. Would it have killed the Capital to have pointed that out?
As with many of you, CP has a love-hate affair with The Capital. As meaty evidence of this, CP often refers readers to articles in The Capital. While it would be nice if they did the same for CP, I'm not holding my breath. The Capital does many things well and provides important, yes even crucial news for us, but it is far from ideal. The biggest disappointment is that with all its resources and strengths, it just does not seem to "get it" half the time. The quality of reporting ranges mainly from adequate to acceptable, with a few notables at both ends of the entire range. Earl Kelly, Eric Hartley and Nicole Young stand out as real positives, but it is too heavy on sports and fluffy stuff for my taste. We are fortunate that it is a far cry better than many, if not most small town newspapers. However, as with all papers, change is in the air, and with this paper, it may be big and it may be imminent.
Capital editor Tom Marquardt opined about this, so CP took the liberty of using his words and changing key words in them to make a defense of blogs. Geeze--I hope I am not guilty of plagiarizing because I could not afford to fight this legal battle. On the other hand, it would be great publicity for CP.....
CP respects Mr. Marquardt's abilities and candor and gives him credit for many of the long term improvements that have taken place at The Capital. Below is CP's highly modified version of Marquardt's recent column, changed of course, to favor blogs, rather than newspapers. I do this to make a point that there are many types of blogs and bloggers, some good and some not so good, but that is true of newspapers as well:
Those of us who write blogs are still confident that we can continue to prosper. The reason, simply, is that people still want to know what is happening in their communities and blogs are in the best position to satisfy them. Who else has the unfiltered and unfettered viewpoints to cover everything from an insider's perspective?
Sure, there are plenty of newspapers such as The Capital that recruit aspiring writers to cover local news. That's fine - but do these outfits live up to their supposed standards? Are they capable of writing serious stories? I know of one that instructs its staff to avoid anything negative if it's about an advertiser, even if it means covering up controversy. I don't think this is what readers want.
There will always be a need for choices in local news, but I don't see blogs out of the picture. We know we have to embrace newspapers and satisfy people who prefer a newsprint to a computer screen. Our platform and even our people may be changing - but not our mission to produce the most comprehensive news report possible.
There are still a lot of people who would rather hold a computer mouse than a newspaper to get their daily fix of local news. Until that changes, you'll still find us on your computer.
Don't give up on us. We have a lot of new ideas and stories for 2008 that we hope will make your investment an even greater value.
Readers may wish to see Marquardt's original words here.
Someone should probably tell Mike that he works for a newspaper, and that he should direct his complaints to the Examiner editorial board rather than to his readers.
Seeing as Mike is publishing online, I would also have assumed that he has internet access. I must be wrong, for he cries out:
Somebody told Carter that declaring a “state of emergency” for Baltimore will get her some attention. So she says this a lot and then always adds, “Our city is bleeding and dying under Dixon’s leadership.” But the charge goes nowhere from there. What would she actually do to end the violence? We never find out. There’s no time when everything’s reduced to TV sound bites, and even when given more time in other venues, Carter’s still vague about it.
In response to Carter’s charges on violence, Dixon said there are “systemic issues.” Oh, yeah? What does that mean? On schools, Dixon said we need a “holistic approach.” Oh, yeah? What does that mean? Then Mitchell said the solution to school problems “starts at the top.”
Hey Mike, last time I checked, you are a reporter, and that job requires more than watching TV hoping a story will come to you. Of course, that is exactly how you wrote this delightful column, so I suppose I can't expect any improvement.
Also, regarding this post, let me, like Andy, whip out my rural credentials, having grown up in Myersville (pop. 1,469) in Frederick County, and having moved from there to the College Park area justy over a year ago. I'll add that Pat McDonough's rather fervent opposition to V-me is not unusual among Republicans, at least some of whom get worked up about the fact that immigrants from Spanish-speaking countries speak Spanish, and would like to have some services, including public television, in their own language. Note that this is not exclusive with Latino immigrants (especially second-generation immigrants) learning English, and is consonant with previous waves of immigration, each of which had media in their native language. Treating the current wave of immigrants as being extreme in this regard bespeaks, at best, an ignorance about how immigration tends to work. Couple this with the recent punitive turn the Republican Party has taken regarding immigration, and it's hard not to ask, with libertarian Megan McArdle, "Can someone explain this in terms that don't devolve into 'But the Mexicans are brown?'" Certainly Latinos themselves think so; they didn't go from voting 58% Democratic in 2004 to 69% in 2006 for no reason.
UPDATE: This, on the other hand, makes some sense.
Kenny Burns, despite his opinion of me, makes a good point: the reason Maryland Public Television's new all-Spanish channel V-me isn't being shown yet in the Washington media market is due to the vagaries of FCC regulation, not Comcast as I had thought earlier. His follow-up post is also pretty good.
I'll just add that Del. Patrick McDonough's plan to have, in effect, a board of commissars determine the content of MPT's new digital channels is indeed disturbing, but also instructive: In today's Republican Party, concerns for freedom of the press and politicization of the media take a back seat to beating back the Brown Menace.
To wit, McDonough complains that MPT should devote its programming more to "health care, the elderly or children's issues." Which is totally not what V-me offers:
For parents and caregivers, public TV means quality pre-school programming. V-me builds on this tradition, devoting 36 hours a week to creating a healthy, positive environment, where preschool children can learn and have fun in Spanish.
At a time where there is so much concern about the quantity and quality of children’s television in mainstream Spanish media, V-me is proud to be the first national network devoting its entire kid’s programming offer to world-class educational pre-school content
Starting the day, and on afternoons and weekends, V-me’s diverse lifestyle line-up reflects the high interest among Latinos for content relating to health, parenting, nutrition, travel, food, home, design, self-improvement, sports and more.
Back in the mid-seventies, when I was a kid growing up in Puerto Rico, my parents once took a long, ambitious vacation to various places in South America. When they got back they brought lots of great pictures and plenty of stories to tell. One of them has stuck with me to this day, and indeed played a significant part in my political development. What's scary is how applicable it is to 2007 America.
Dan Rodricks' column in the Sun today is a reaction to the sale of Tribune Newspapers, of which the paper is a part, to a private investor. He thinks that in order for the Sun to stay viable, they will have to start charging for online use.
You might be asked one day to buy the Sun on-line. I don't understand why you haven't been. (Maybe the Sirius/XM thing has the experts worried.) It would seem to me that those of us who want to stay informed -- and save the trees that produce the newsprint -- ought to be willing to pay, say, 25 cents a day for a reliable on-line regional news service. And advertisers ought to be willing to pay for the impressive exposure they're getting on these pages.
This is what Editor Tom Marquardt wrote in The Capital on April 1:
QUOTING FROM BLOGS - The emergence of blogs - running commentaries that virtually anyone can post on the Web - have posed ethical challenges for traditional media.
Not everything you read on the Internet is accurate, or even within several miles of accuracy. This particularly applies to blogs, freewheeling online discussions in which anything can be said and anything can be challenged. Most blogs have no editors, no fact-checkers, no ethical parameters. So should a reporter quote from a discussion on a Web site?
(Great opening diary, Chris. It pains me to see the Frederick Democratic leadership act the way they did, but I'm glad the younger members are fighting for change. - promoted by Isaac Smith)
Back in August, the Chairman of the Democratic Central Committee in Frederick County got arrested for DUI. He didn't tell anybody before the election. Good call, in my estimation. That's not the sort of thing you want in the papers while you're trying to get Democrats elected.
But after the election, and he was elected to Central Committee, he stood for Chairman without telling anyone on the committee that he'd been arrested for DUI. His pending court proceedings would be public, and easy for the press to pick up. The headline practically wrote itself: "Local Dem Leader Busted for DUI."
Unfortunately, he went ahead and got himself elected Chairman anyway. Was he putting his own ambition before the interests of the Party? Or was he just unaware of the damage he might do? Either way, it was a public relations debacle waiting to happen.
Apparently, in the Frederick News-Post poll, 60% voted to keep the death penalty, with only 39% wanting a repeal. Too bad all the votes were volunteers in an "e-poll" and that the poll itself only got 223 respondents.