Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Baltimore Sun reporter denounced at police press conference

The chief of Maryland’s airport police convened a press conference this afternoon to accuse a Baltimore Sun reporter of “unprofessional, unethical and intimidating tactics” in pursuit of a story.

Chief Gary W. McLhinney said Sun transportation reporter Michael Dresser attempted to persuade Officer Steve Benner to talk by mailing him an "intimidating" message on the back of a business card, according to Maryland Transportation Authority Police spokesperson Corporal Pamela Thorne.

Benner runs the airport’s “executive protection program,” which provides expedited escorts through security for dignitaries and other “high-profile” officials, said Thorne.

According to the spokesperson, the reporter's handwritten message was this: “We should talk. I know a lot of about what’s going on there. So does your possible next boss. The long-term prospects of the escort business looks [sic] grim. Let’s meet in a safe place.”

MdTA Police officers are prohibited from speaking to the press, according to Thorne.

Thorne said Benner received the business card at his airport office last Wednesday, and showed it to Chief McLhinney a day or two later. Thorne said McLhinney discussed the matter with Dresser’s editors at The Sun. “The editors said they didn’t see any problem with what Mr. Dresser did,” said Thorne.

Sun editor Tim Franklin issued this afternoon the following statement: "It is not The Sun's practice to intimidate any source into talking to us, and that was not the intention in this case, either. Our metro editor, Mike Leary, explained as much in a cordial phone with Mr. McLhinney yesterday. In light of that conversation, we were surprised that he chose to call a news conference today. Obviously, the police officer decided not to talk to us, and that's his prerogative."

Monday, April 24, 2006

Olesker replacement quits, returns to Memphis

Recently hired Sun metro columnist Wendi C. Thomas has quit Baltimore, a day before her debut column was set to publish. She will return to Memphis and to her old paper, The Commercial Appeal, according to a statement published this morning on the Memphis daily’s web site.

"My heart is in Memphis," Thomas is quoted on commercialappeal.com. "The Sun is a wonderful paper, and Baltimore is a great city, but it's not home."

Thomas was hired last month after a lengthy search for a replacement for veteran columnist Michael Olesker, who resigned in January amid a plagiarism controversy.

Sun editor Tim Franklin says he was "surprised and disappointed" by Thomas’ decision to resign. "I got a call yesterday afternoon that she was contemplating it," Franklin says, and received Thomas’ resignation in person this morning. "She had quite obviously made up her mind by the time of the meeting," he says.

Franklin says Thomas did not appear unhappy during her several weeks in Baltimore, where she has been getting to know the city and fellow journalists. "She seemed happy," he says. "I know other members of the staff had made a point to greet her and tried to make her feel at home … I don’t think any of us had any inkling of this."

During their meeting this morning, Franklin says Thomas "made it clear that she was welcomed at The Sun and that she liked the paper, but she wanted to go home and this was entirely a personal decision for her."

Franklin expressed confidence that he would be able to find a suitable replacement soon. "We did a national search, we had a lot of candidates for the job and a lot of talented ones, so I’m confident that we’ll find a gifted writer for this columnist job."

Thomas’ twice-weekly column was set to debut tomorrow. In her first installment, a draft of which was obtained by City Paper, the writer confesses to mixed feelings about trading Memphis for Baltimore:

"Nearly a month ago, I left Memphis, the city in which I grew up, the city where my parents and boyfriend still live, to take this job. I left behind a city and a state that I know all too well, and a great gig as a columnist there, to opine about a city and a region I barely know at all. I left behind the easy eating of pulled pork barbecue to work for my dinner, hammering out the white goodness in steamed crabs. And sometimes, I wonder if I left my good sense somewhere between the River City and Charm City."

Despite her misgivings, Thomas also expresses excitement about her new job. "I want to know how Marylanders see themselves. How far have we come, and how far do we have yet to go? The BELIEVE signs hang conspicuously all over town, but what do … we really believe? To be sure, my learning curve will be steep, but I’m hopeful that readers will help me climb, or shove me up, that hill."

Thomas’ first column, which will not run tomorrow, ends with the words, "Let the conversation begin."

Friday, March 17, 2006

Truth in Advertising

The Wall Street Journal this morning reported on the controversial increase in business sponsorship revenue, in exchange for on-air announcements, at “commercial free” National Public radio and its affiliate member stations. “Public radio executives are aware of the fine line they must tread,” writes Sarah McBride. “They don’t even call it advertising—to them it’s ‘sponsorship’ or ‘underwriting.’”

There’s no such tightrope walk at Baltimore’s WYPR-FM. In its 2004 tax return, the one most recently available, the public radio station describes its $1,755,911 underwriting revenue this way: “WYPR radio provides advertising for clients, in return for underwriting fees that enables WYPR to broadcast programs of intellectual integrity and cultural merit.”

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

See Word

A cute thing happened on the way to court-martial Monday. Baltimore Sun photographer Amy Davis shot Sgt. Jennifer Scala, a witness in a military prosecution of alleged Abu Ghraib guard misconduct. The uniformed Scala was photographed leaving the military tribunal carrying a book by Inga Muscio, Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, whose title epithet was clearly visible in the photo, which ran on page A3 of the newspaper yesterday.

Muscio’s book, described by Publisher’s Weekly as a “self-indulgent exercise in feminist reclamation,” is a cultural-anthropological celebration of the c-word. Perhaps Scala was declaring her own girlish independence by carrying the book, or just looking for a way to amuse herself while waiting to testify. She has already demonstrated some penchant for unladylike (though not necessarily un-soldierlike) preoccupation; In reporter Stephen Kiehl’s accompanying story, he writes that Scala testified at trial that while working at Abu Ghraib she allowed guard dogs to “lick peanut butter off her breasts” as part of a bet with other military prison guards.

The publication of the photo apparently aroused the ire of some Sun readers yesterday. The paper ran this correction today: "A photograph published yesterday with an article about the court-martial of a guard at Abu Ghraib prison showed a book cover that contained an obscenity. The obscenity went unnoticed during editing and should not have been published. Publication of the photo violates The Sun's guidelines.
The Sun apologizes for the oversight."

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

In This Week's City Paper

In the cover feature, photographer Frank Klein and writer Stephen Janis get watched, along with neighborhood residents, by the Baltimore Police Department’s ever-growing number of surveillance cameras. Andrew Byrne is monitoring the cameras at Manifestor.org. More anarchic action against the cameras can be found at the Independent Media Center. Andrew Buchanan, at The Christian Science Monitor, has a good article about similar cameras in Chicago. And city streets aren’t the only place in the Baltimore area these cameras are sprouting, though most others don’t come with flashing blue lights. The Towson TimesBryan P. Spears has an update on the effort to put surveillance cameras in Baltimore County shopping center parking lots; turns out, they cost a lot.

In Mobtown Beat, Edward Ericson Jr. finds plenty of Baltimoreans--more so than usual--who say they’ve been locked up overnight or longer for no good reason. Over at The Sun, columnist Gregory Kane has been covering this, too. For example, this one, from about a month ago. And, of course, there’s a politician hoping to investigate, in this case state Del. Jill P. Carter. She’s even got a petition.

And Christina Royster-Hemby does some reading at Karibu Books, soon to open at Security Square Mall in Woodlawn.

In A&E, Bret McCabe makes friends with the folks behind new local publishing imprint Creative Capitalism. Mikael Wood Q&As Baltimore native Jon Theodore (formerly of Golden), now playing drums for the Mars Volta. And J. Bowers puts the lens cap on the Baltimore Camera Club members’ show at Baltimore Gallery.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

As you've probably heard by now, thanks to the Sun's Jill Rosen, among others, the convention center HQ hotel is pretty much a done deal. Well, there goes our $305 million. To find out how it happened, dig deep in the Sun's "Hilton Proposal" mini-site , which includes good stories on the success and failure of taxpayer-funded hotels elsewhere, how this is a preview of the next citywide elections (anyone have Keiffer Mitchell for Mayor T-shirts printed up yet?), how this sets our O'Mayor straight with the unions, etc. And, of course, Gov. Bob has stuck his nose in this business, thanks to the city, according to this BBJ report by Heather Harlan, asking for state funds to help build the Hilton.

More from today's Sun: In better news, Jennifer Skalka reports that Johns Hopkins prof Avi Rubin just got a $7.5 million National Science Foundation grant to set up a center at Homeland to investigate the accuracy of electronic voting machines. Rubin, of course, is no stranger to readers of City Paper.

And, in case you missed it, Eddie is back in town, and John Woestendiek has a story on the new job for the former police commissioner, who's back in town doing community service: WHFS talk-show host.

Around the Horn: In a pretty puffy but informative piece, the BBJ's Robert J. Terry introduces us to F. Brooks Royster III, the Maryland Port Administration's new executive director. You may recall some hoo-ha about this earlier in the year.

In the Patuxent papers, the Towson Times' Bryan P. Sears catches up with former Republican state delegate from northern Baltimore County/two-time gubernatorial loser Ellen Sauerbrey. The Laurel Leader's Pete Pichaske reports on how local leaders plan to deal with job growth at Fort Meade and the National Security Agency. And the Northeast Booster's Virginia Terhune details developers' plans for East Baltimore's demolished Hollander Ridge housing project; nothing exciting--it's to be an office park.

Talk about burying the lead: As is to be expected Dundalk residents, according to this Dundalk Eagle story by Bill Gates, oppose some new condo development, ho-hum, but when you get a quote this good you put it in the lead, not the closing graph no one may get to: "I praise you," one man said at the meeting between residents and developers. "Dundalk is a slum, and that's how people from outside view it. I think [Sheltered Harbor] is what Dundalk needs. We need more life, class and money." Another member of the audience retorted: "We have that reputation so we can keep outside people from moving here."

Beyond the Beltway: In the LA Times, Suzanne Muchnic gets medieval on a pretty awesome new Hopkins web site that presents old manuscripts in digital form. And in the Wall Street Journal, Joi Preciphs watches as Republican governors, including our own, try to gut state employees unions.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

In This Week's City Paper

In the cover feature, Gadi Dechter goes long with the history of Galaxy tall tee.

No links there, really, but in Mobtown Beat, Ryan Grim goes fishing with various groups, both environmental and sporting, trying to save the Chesapeake Bay’s menhaden population, including but not limited to the Maryland Saltwater Sportsfishermen’s Association, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Environmental Defense, and the Coastal Conservation Association, many of which have formed the umbrella group Menhaden Matter. The biggest threat to menhaden? That would be Houston-based Omega Protein Corp., which fishes for menhaden in the Virginia portion of the bay. Who governs fishing in the bay? Among others, that would be the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission and the Maryland Department of Natural ResourcesFisheries Service. Elsewhere in MB, Edward Ericson Jr. gets temperatures rising with a story about how the state of Maryland declined to join a suit trying to get the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce power-plant mercury emissions laws. For more on that suit, and further links, click here.

In Arts & Entertainment, J. Bowers howls along with local singer/songwriter Jessie Hughes. I can’t find a web site for Hughes, but here’s her label, Boston-based Lifted and Gifted. And Wendy Ward just wants to be able to get a bagel at Red Emma’s without being glared at. Is that so much to ask?