Commentary: Jealous attacks MarylandReporter.com as ‘right-wing blog’

Commentary: Jealous attacks MarylandReporter.com as ‘right-wing blog’

WYPR's Tom Hall, left, questions candidate Ben Jealous in the studio. Photo is screen shot from the public radio station's website page.

By Len Lazarick

Len@MarylandReporter.com

In a public radio interview Tuesday, Ben Jealous, the Democratic nominee for governor, attacked MarylandReporter.com as “a right-wing blog that’s funded by right-wing donors that like to scare people.”

Jealous’ claim came toward the end of a rambling response to a question from WYPR’s Tom Hall on his “Midday” program that referred to a MarylandReporter.com story shooting holes in his plan to save $660 million from the prison budget.  

(A video of the full program is on WYPR’s Facebook page. Jealous remarks about the website are at minute 49. Hall’s question starts at minute 47.)

Jealous got his facts wrong about the story, about the prison savings, and about the funding for MarylandReporter.com.

On Hall’s show, Jealous stated, “We used the state’s own estimates for that.”

Actually, his campaign incorrectly used an estimate from Public Safety Performance Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts, projecting total savings from reducing prison population over several years to annual savings. In fact, “the state’s own estimates” by both the governor’s office and the legislature’s analysts are for a similar reduction in prison population. Most of the savings are plowed back into the inmates to provide more education, job training and other services to keep them from coming back. Read the story for more details.

A long Aug. 31 story by Luke Broadwater of the Sun also questions Jealous’ plans in greater detail, with more background on the issue.  

Funding for MarylandReporter.com

MarylandReporter.com got started nine years ago as an independent news website with initial funding through the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, a new organization emphasizing accountability in state government, responding to the loss of statehouse reporting.

The source of the Franklin Center’s funding was never disclosed and some, such as the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, have speculated it came through the Koch brothers. But Mayer and others find the conservative Kochs under every rock.

Franklin Center stopped all its funding of independent state news websites across the country in 2012. Most of these websites have gone out of business. Not MarylandReporter.com. 

For the past six years, Maryland Reporter has been funded the same way as WYPR and other public radio stations: through grants from foundations, corporations, unions, advocacy organizations and hundreds of individual donors.

In 2013, we were admitted to the Institute for Nonprofit News, the organization representing over 150 nonprofit newsrooms across the country. Since then, Maryland Matters and Baltimore Brew have joined INN as well. 

INN requires that we list the names of all donors of $1,000 or more. MarylandReporter.com goes beyond that requirement and lists all but a few anonymous donors of less than $1,000. Here’s a link to the full list on our website.

A sampling of our major funders shows they are hardly the “right-wing donors” Jealous describes. Some of the names may be familiar to readers as funders of PBS and NPR.

Major funders

They include:

  •      The Abell Foundation of Baltimore
  •      John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
  •      The Fund for Nonprofit News at the Miami Foundation
  •      John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
  •      Democracy Fund
  •      The John J. Leidy Foundation of Towson
  •      The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation of Oklahoma
  •      Rothschild Art Foundation of Towson

In the past, we have also received grants from the Maryland State Education Association to support coverage of the Common Core curriculum and the work of the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. We have received grants and advocacy advertising from AARP.

We do have more Republican donors than other websites, and we do publish fiscally conservative points of view. We do accept advertising and funding from non-partisan groups. 

We publish our mission statement, which has not changed in nine years.

“MarylandReporter.com is a daily news website produced by journalists committed to making state government as open, transparent, accountable and responsive as possible – in deed, not just in promise. We believe the people who pay for this government are entitled to have their money spent in an efficient and effective way, and that they are entitled to keep as much of their hard-earned dollars as they possibly can.”

In our daily State Roundups, which have come out 2,200 times over the past nine years, we do our best to publish a wide range of state and local government coverage and commentary from all points of view.

My longtime friend and MarylandReporter.com board member Dan Gainor, a true right-wing conservative at the Media Research Center, laughs when I tell him people call us conservative. He is, we aren’t. I’m certainly pro-business and fiscally conservative, but I am not an ideologue, or I wouldn’t have survived eight years on the national copy desk of the Washington Post.

Scary places

The Hogan campaign is certainly trying to scare people about the Jealous prison plan. We were not. Our story was trying to show that Jealous was simply wrong on the facts. He still is.

Prisons are scary places when those bars slam shut. I learned that almost 50 years ago as a Jesuit novice serving as the assistant to the chaplain at the Berks County prison in Pennsylvania and living at Dismas House, the halfway house for ex-convicts in West Baltimore run by the late Rev. Myer Tobey, S.J. The Baltimore City Jail was one of the scariest places I’ve ever been when I attended Sunday Mass there offered by Tobey.

As a reporter, I’ve visited and written about many of the prisons in Maryland. The Justice Reinvestment Act is a good thing. It deserves our support. Prisoners need education, job skills and addiction help, and continued support and counseling when they leave. These efforts have bipartisan support.

To the far left, MarylandReporter.com might look right wing when we question their facts. But we’re just doing our job — fact-based journalism where we can find it.    

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of MarylandReporter.com and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.

4 Comments

  1. Paul Katula

    This type of accusation seems to be the new norm. I’m a Maryland Democrat who voted for Hogan, mainly because of a real sincerity I heard and saw in him at one of the debates with Brown. When Jealous, literally, goes out of his way to comment on Maryland Reporter or any media outlet (or when Trump goes out of his way to comment on a scientific study out of George Washington U., reviewed by people at Hopkins), it’s a sign of desperation. Remember, a drowning man will grab onto his rescuers, not because he intends them any harm, but because he’s drowning. I just hope we’ve learned from recent elections to be able to see this for what it is. Statements that are easily refuted with overwhelming evidence to the contrary (as Len has shown here and as the scientific community has done with the Maria death toll) say much more about the losing situation the speaker finds himself in than about the object of their remarks.

  2. joe

    Ben Jealous is a certifiable lunatic!

  3. charlie hayward

    Len wouldn’t and doesn’t shape coverage to suit his donors, and this race isn’t a Ben vs. Len contest.

    Ben’s platform includes major prison reform, and I sincerely believe he missed his opportunity to sell his ideas rather than resorting to name calling. This impulsiveness suggests he may have a low level of conviction about such reform. And I suspect he would continue this behavior if elected. Worse, his supporters approve this behavior and some even believe him.

  4. Mary P.

    Keep putting that foot in your mouth, Ben. Every time you do you help Governor Hogan’s re-election campaign!

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