Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Baltimore Sun reporters lose access to state government

Maryland's Republican governor Robert Ehrlich, Jr. ordered state employees not to speak to a Baltimore Sun columnist and the bureau chief covering the State House. According to the Sun, "the order said the two writers were 'failing to objectively report' on the administration."
The ban was imposed after Nitkin had written articles about the state's plan to sell 836 acres of preserved forestland in St. Mary's County to Willard Hackerman, a politically connected construction company owner, in a transaction that could have netted him millions in tax breaks.

The Sun sued for access in federal court, arguing that "the ban violated the First Amendment rights of the two journalists by denying them the same opportunities to seek information as other news organizations and citizens." But the judge dismissed the suit.

The Sun expects to appeal to the 4th District Court of Appeals. Opinion as to the prospects for the appeal are mixed, according to the Sun's own reporting.

I especially enjoyed the reaction of the governor's attorney—

Earlier yesterday, when Ehrlich's private counsel, David Hamilton, was asked on WBAL Radio what Nitkin and Olesker could do to end the ban, he said only, "Relocate."

As chilling to a free press as this may seem, there may be a silver lining. Reporters for too long have depended upon quotes from government officials to present the news rather than dig into the actual record. If they will do their homework and report their findings, I believe in many cases government officials will of a sudden be eager to talk.

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