Photo above: A street sign in Centreville, MA shot by Sean Driscoll and published on JimRomanesko.com.
By Len Lazarick
The Gazette newspapers pulled the plug on political columnist Blair Lee IV last Tuesday, ending his 27 years of vociferous weekly opinionating in Montgomery County newspapers. Lee’s last column about the winners and losers of the Nov. 4 election, as pungent as ever, was posted online Nov. 18.
Two days later the Gazette editor who canned Lee due to budget cuts, Doug Tallman, got his walking papers as well. Tallman spent years covering the State House, and was one of just a few employees laid off last week.
The loss of Lee and Tallman continues the Gazette’s retreat from coverage of state government and politics that was once a must-read by Annapolis insiders.
CORRECTED 11/24/2014, Noon: The Gazette of Political and Business was the only paid-circulation full-size broadsheet newspaper among the Gazette’s family of Montgomery County community newspapers, now reduced to five editions in Montgomery and two in Prince George’s County. Now called just the Business Gazette Business, the broadsheet is largely supported by legal and government ads. It has a paid circulation to meet the requirements of state law for legal notices. (The Enquirer-Gazette in Upper Marlboro is part of the group.)
Now owned by Jeff Bezos
The Gazette is owned by Post Community Media LLC, once the property of the Washington Post Co. It is now owned by Nash Holdings LLC, a private company controlled by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos which also owns The Washington Post daily newspaper.
Lee said that his column was going to end in January, but when he was appointed to Gov.-elect Larry Hogan’s transition team on Nov. 18, the Gazette decided to end his contributions immediately. (The Gazette had endorsed Hogan for governor, as had Lee before the election.)
Lee told MarylandReporter.com he was going to take a break from column writing, but might consider a return in some venue.
Lee was the last of the well-known Maryland political columnists writing for the Gazette.
Continued layoffs at Gazette
In May 2013, the Gazette did a major house cleaning, laying off reporters, editors and freelance columnists. Before that it had completely shuttered its Frederick County editions.
In 2013, it dropped Barry Rascovar, whose Monday columns now appear in MarylandReporter.com and on his own website, politicalmaryland.com. Columnist Laslo Boyd now writes regularly for Center Maryland, as does Josh Kurtz, once one of the mainstays of the Gazette of Politics and Business.
Other former Gazette reporters have gone into public relations and lobbying.
Tallman had left the Gazette to be a regional editor for the start-up of Patch.com, AOL’s hyperlocal websites that once had over 50 local reporters and editors in Maryland. AOL reportedly blew over $150 million nationwide on that project, which hired hundreds of reporters and editors across the U.S. Patch.com still publishes some local news in Maryland with a skeleton crew.
In April, the Baltimore Sun Media Group, owned by the Tribune Co., purchased the Capital-Gazette papers based in Annapolis and the Carroll County Times in Westminster. This means virtually all the local dailies and weeklies in the six-county Baltimore region are owned by the Sun and increasingly share content, where once they published competing stories on the same events.
The Washington Post and the Gazette newspapers share common ownership, but as yet do not often share the same stories.