Departing Maryland governor Robert Ehrlich held a luncheon the other day at the State House in Annapolis where those invited, according to an account in the Washington Post, were “limited to reporters from newspapers that had endorsed his candidacy.”
The Post, being such a paper, had a reporter in attendance, there to note first-hand such gems as Ehrlich saying he may launch a political consulting firm because he and his staff have exhibited “a lot of talent, as everybody knows;” that he may go on tour because “there is a generally favorable view of our administration around the country” (albeit not among a sufficient number of Maryland voters to re-elect him), and that two potential Republican presidential candidates, Giuliani and Romney, have contacted him for help.
Halfway down the story was this paragraph: “He [Ehrlich] spoke yesterday at a luncheon in the State House that was limited to reporters from newspapers that had endorsed his candidacy. Aides suggested that other reporters might have an opportunity to participate in a similar ‘exit interview’ later.”
Anyone got a problem here? Like maybe the Post missed the story? Like maybe the story was, how dare a governor hold such a lunch in the statehouse, and why in the world did any newspapers take part? Why didn’t they boycott the event and blast it? That would have made for a lot better, more justified story.
As one person pointed out: Here’s the Post – and the other news organizations that attended – using editorial endorsements to gain entry despite always taking great pains to insist that there’s a church/state wall between editorial and news. So attendance was a terrible blow against that supposedly sanctified relationship.
A colleague, Morton Mintz, had this view: “The very moment I begin to think about where this could lead, about precedents that it could set, I feel nauseous. For example, by going along with this, the Post is hinting to other and future governors and public officials everywhere that they may want to emulate Ehrlich.” (Mintz and I both worked at the Post for many years.)
As far as I can tell at this point, only the Baltimore Sun wasn’t invited. I don’t know if any news organizations that were invited refused to take part.
The Associated Press filed a story on Ehrlich’s remarks, noting that “the Associated Press, which does make political endorsements, was not invited.”
The Hagerstown Herald-Mail also attended, and noted that “The (Baltimore) Sun, with whom Ehrlich feuded during his time as governor, was not invited to the press lunch. Greg Massoni, Ehrlich’s deputy director of communications, said only newspapers that endorsed Ehrlich were invited.”
The Baltimore Examiner wrote, “Rather than conduct a series of one-on-one interviews, Ehrlich’s press office invited reporters to dine on seafood stew over rice — but only print journalists from newspapers who had endorsed his re-election, which was just about all of them except for The Sun.”
The Washington Times filed a story and didn’t mention any conditions, surprise.
I looked at the Baltimore Sun online and found no mention of the event.