The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Monday, December 06, 2004

Maryland poses the choice: are the media with us or against us?

There are two great stories in progress in the Old Line State: the disposal of public lands - corruptly or not, that is the question - and Governor Robert Erlich's coup against the Baltimore Sun, banning staff from talking to a couple of its hacks who reported on the public lands question, and failed to give anilingual satisfaction.

The lands question I touched on on November 29 in connection with the Salem Tract - 836 acres in St Mary's County to a friend of Democrat Comptroller William Schaefer (there is divided government within the executive branch in Maryland). Erlich has a policy of selling off 'surplus' state lands: the suspicion is that these sales are being made at below the best price obtainable to political cronies who will kick back a proportion of the profit they make on developing the land to the pols who made that profit possible.

(The Post has an editorial on the subject today.)

The sell-off/giveaway of public lands is at the bottom of the Sun affair: apparently, a couple of the paper's hacks decided to do some actual journalism on the subject, and that always puts folks' backs up.

Now (Sun today) the rag has fought back, kinda sorta:
On Friday, the Baltimore Sun Co. asked a federal judge to lift the administration's ban on State House Bureau Chief David Nitkin and columnist Michael Olesker. The ban was issued Nov. 18 by Ehrlich press secretary Shareese N. DeLeaver in an e-mail directive.

(Is that press secretary's name kosher?)

The argument is that
it discourages "speech by any citizen of Maryland who disagrees with the Governor."
and thereby infringes the First Amendment [1].

(Sounds pretty unlikely as a cause of action - an opinion tempered only by a complete lack of research on the topic!)

The great merit of the Erlich edict is that, even more than the generalised contempt of the Bush administration for the media's leading lights (Ken Auletta's New Yorker piece refers), it puts the media on the spot: are you in the conspiracy or out? Are you happy sucking government pablum through a straw between your toothless gums, and passing the product, duly anonymised, to a long-suffering public? Are you addicted to the deep pile carpets and comfy armchairs of background briefings in inner sanctums? Or have you the balls to cut your leading-reins and do journalism from a credibly independent position, outside the harem?

Rhetorical questions are fun: I'm pretty sure of the answers. But there's just the nagging doubt: perhaps with some hacks in chokey over the Plame business - there are other incarcerations pending - the camel's back might be on the point of giving way.

Think of those generations of Red Sox fans: the vastly improbable can happy.

(Interpolate chorus of Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Da...)

  1. The complaint is here (PDF).


A dreary, whiny-ass drone from Eric Alterman and friend over at Center for American Progress: the loyal stenographer scorned!

Now, after four years of grovelling (that March 6 2003 presidential presser perhaps the most abject), the gentlemen of the press decide to demand respect? Good luck with that!


An example to the pampered flunkies of the Press Corps just comes to mind: Norma Zager, editor of a penny-ante freesheet, the Beverly Hills Courier, got the goods on Erin Brockovich, who was helping out her ambulance-chasing activities with some good old lying (March 20).

Checking, as one does, I see that there is a dissenter on Zager: no less than Luke Ford:
All that bullshit about Norma Zager at the BH Courier and how she's really reported the truth in the BH cancer scare. She's reported the BH city corporate line, taken easy potshots at Erin Brockovich & Co., and the media folk have bought into it. Have you ever read the BH Courier? It's all controlled pabulum spoonfed by the editor, March Schwartz, the wizard of BH Oz.

Schwartz is apparently, more formally, the Publisher Emeritus of the Courier.

There's a very modest Six Degrees with Ford: he is a journo on the porn beat and the friend - and ex-lover? left coast irony befuddles transpondian kibitzers! - of Cathy Seipp, mother of the pseudonymous Cecile Dubois, some of whose earlier adventures I followed here.

To judge from her blog, she's been slightly more sombre and grown-up since the summer: as I recall, she was made editor of the school rag, and her cat died. But the old Cecile is still cropping up regularly: visiting the California Science Center at USC, she notes the crowds in for:
a USC football game, where hundreds of people tailgated, and barbecued, drank Coors in very chilly weather. There were many frat boys around, a sign of a very social college. But having a condom name as your mascot, and drunken frat boys is not always a positive sign for a quiet introvert like me.

And, contemplating her choice of college,
I want a diverse school, but not so diverse to the point of endless gay parades...

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