Blog Posts.

News, even on vacation

Whenever I travel, I always try to pick up the local newspaper.

I’m the kind of traveler who doesn’t want to be limited to hotels and tourists areas. I want to get a sense of the place. And I find newspapers are a great way to learn about a city — what’s going on, what’s important, what things locals are interested in.

It’s a little more difficult, however, to read newspapers when they are in a foreign language! This year, I traveled to two foreign destinations where French is the primary language: Paris and Montreal.

Even though my French is rudimentary at best, I still could fumble through enough of it to learn that some important European soccer figure had died (that was in a French sports paper) and that elections were coming up in Montreal. I even “read” in a Montreal newspaper about a study of neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides thought to harm bees — an issue I’ve written about in Maryland.

Montreal newspaper October 2017
Eating poutine and trying to read a newspaper in Montreal’s Plateau-Mile End neighborhood, October 2017.
Paris newspaper June 2017
Attempting to read L’Equipe, a sports newspaper, in a cafe in the Marais neighborhood of Paris, July 2017.

Back to school

Twice this month, I had the privilege of being asked to speak with college classes about my work.

I enjoy talking with college students and hearing their thoughts on journalism. (As I said to one group: “I talk with old people all the time. So I like hearing from young people.”)

Two days after the general election, my colleague/competitor Ron Snyder invited me to talk with his media ethics class at Towson University. (Ron and I worked together at the Capital-Gazette Newspapers, and now he’s a digital editor with WBAL-TV.)

I had planned to talk about ethical decision-making as a journalist and some of the steps I take to avoid ethical issues such as conflict of interest or showing bias. But with the surprising victory of President-elect Donald Trump, we threw that out the window and talked instead with students about media coverage of the campaign, where it fell short and how journalists can improve. The students were eager to talk about the election.

Then this week, I spoke to a political science class for the first time. Dr. Mileah Kromer invited me to talk with her introductory class at Goucher College.

For the Goucher class, I talked about the importance of the press as a watchdog on the government — especially as we enter a time with a Republican president, Republican-controlled Congress and a Supreme Court that’s likely soon to tilt conservative. I also talked about Baltimore County’s emerging role as a swing or bellweather county in Maryland politics. The students had lots of great questions for me.

Interestingly enough, the day that I spoke at Goucher started and ended on college campuses. My day started at 8 a.m. at Goucher in Towson and ended at 9 p.m. with the final session of a French class that I’ve been taking at Anne Arundel Community College in Arnold.

Here I am with the Goucher students. Thanks to Dr. Kromer for the picture.


Sunflowers, sunflowers, sunflowers.

I was recently reunited with my DSLR camera after sending it to Nikon to fix focusing issues that were driving me batty. I took my newly repaired camera out for a spin over the weekend to the McKee Breshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, where the Maryland Department of Natural Resources plants sunflowers for their habitat benefits.

It’s a great spot to photograph sunflowers because it’s public property and so there’s no chance of trespassing and no chance of ruining someone’s crop. The sunflowers bloom in July, and you can check with the DNR for the exact dates and field locations each year. There is no entrance fee.

Here are some tips from my trip to McKee Breshers:

  • Even though it is HOT in July, wear long pants tucked into boots to avoid bug bites and to prevent scraping up your legs while walking through the fields.
  • Use bug spray and check for bugs. I found a tick crawling on my camera.
  • There are lots of bees, but they are all about the flowers. I shot for two hours and didn’t get any bee stings.
  • Bring a stepstool or small ladder if you want to shoot from above the sunflowers. Many of the plants were 6 feet tall.
  • There are other neat things to see there, too. I walked by some swampy areas that had cool plants and what sounded like bullfrogs.

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Here is DNR’s map of the 2016 sunflower fields. I shot in the field that’s second from the left:

McKee DNR map

Moving on …

For the past 14 (!) years, I’ve had the privilege of covering news in Anne Arundel County.

From a dialysis clinic in the basement of a state prison in Jessup to the top of the State House dome in Annapolis, my career has literally taken me all over the county.

Now I have a new adventure: Covering politics and government in Baltimore County, still with The Baltimore Sun.

I’m trading Gott’s garage for one in Towson; the Arundel Center and City Hall for the Historic Courthouse; I-97 for the Baltimore Beltway; WRNR for WTMD.

As I switch to Baltimore County, I hope my Anne Arundel readers stay tuned, as I have a few more Anne Arundel stories in the works in the coming weeks.

On the radio again

I was fortunate to be asked to appear on WYPR radio again this week. This time, I recorded an interview with Joel McCord for “Inside Maryland Politics,” a short segment that airs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during “Morning Edition.”

We talked about the 2014 race for county executive in Anne Arundel County, which so far features Republican County Executive Laura Neuman, Republican Del. Steve Schuh and Democrat Joanna Conti.

You can listen to it here.


Discussing Naval Academy on the radio

I’ve been covering a case of alleged sexual assault involving Naval Academy midshipmen, and appeared on WYPR radio this week to discuss the case.

Here’s audio from my appearance on “Midday with Dan Rodricks” with my Baltimore Sun colleague Dan Rodricks, victims’ Imageadvocate and attorney Susan Burke, and Anne Kendzior, a former midshipman who is suing the Naval Academy.

In the case I’ve been covering, three male midshipmen were facing possible charges related to an off-campus party in April 2012, where a female classmate has testified that they may have engaged in sexual activities without her consent. Following an eight-day preliminary hearing called and Article 32 hearing and a review by the academy superintendent, two are being formally charged and charges were dropped against the third.

We learned that off-campus party houses have long been an issue for the Naval Academy. And advocates who want changes in the military justice system are using the case as an example in their arguments.


Busy. Crazy. And busy some more.

I’ve been at The Baltimore Sun for nearly six weeks now, and it’s been a very busy blur. I’ve had to get comfortable with all of the new systems (e-mail, budgeting stories, filing stories, requesting photos, etc.) while covering lots and lots of news.

I’m covering Annapolis and Anne Arundel County — mainly government, but also a little bit of everything. And Anne Arundel County has no shortage of news.

In  my first week, I managed to land stories on A1 twice — first, when the county executive vetoed a stormwater fee and second, when I wrote a quick-turnaround profile of the state’s corrections secretary.

A few other stories I’ve liked: A co-written, in-depth look at safety concerns in obstacle/mud runs; a feature on the county’s foster parents of the year and a bit of a spat between the former county executive and the new county executive.