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 cleaning out my desk at The Capital, I found some interesting things.
I found a file folder full of thank you cards and also some nasty-grams. (“Take those carbon credits and shove them up your a—, you liberal scum” is a favorite.)
For some reason, I have a big pile of press passes and badges. I have no idea what many of them are for, but the ones issued by the White House (for covering Naval Academy graduation) are pretty cool. I’ll keep those.
Here’s perhaps the most poignant thing I found. I found the first issue of the Our Bay section that was started while I was at The Capital. Here it is, side-by-side with the final Our Bay section from earlier this month.
I helped my colleague Allison Bourg by combing through decades’ worth of old newspaper clippings about his life.
I’m always happy to help when I can on breaking and important news, even if it’s off my beat. But I really do enjoy reading old stories.
First, when someone dies, old stories are the only way to get their voice in the story. As a reader, I find it interesting to be reminded of some of the things the deceased person said. And the old quotes help to fill out the deceased person’s character a bit.
Plus, I just love journalism in all forms, especially from years ago.
Because Alton was county executive, a state senator and a sheriff at various points, my newspaper had tons of clippings. And the ones I found on Friday didn’t even cover Alton’s full career.
I was surprised to find that there seemed to be bias creeping through many of the stories. It seems the reporters and editors mostly seemed to like Alton. Some of the wording and descriptions certainly wouldn’t fly in today’s press, where we do our best to play stories straight and keep any personal feelings out of the news stories.
Another thing that wouldn’t fly: “women’s” stories. I found one report about a birthday party for Alton that described what his wife was wearing and even complimented her figure, listing her height and weight. (!!) There also was another piece written by a “women’s editor” describing how the wife helped during a campaign by taking calls at home for the executive. (Again: !!)
I also was intrigued by the deadlines. The Capital was — and still is — an evening newspaper. Nowadays, the final deadline for the evening print edition is about 9:30 a.m. It used to be later — maybe 10:30 — when the paper was still printed in the same building.
But back then, the deadlines must have been much later. When Alton was sentenced in federal court in Baltimore (he had pleaded guilty to soliciting contributions from companies that wanted work with the county government), the sentence came down at 10:35 a.m. And that evening’s paper included the full story, photos and a sketch of Alton in the courtroom. The writer might have been able to call in his story from a pay phone, but the photographer and artist surely had to drive back to Annapolis.
Most interesting of all, however, was a story about what prison life would be like for the county executive.
I had to do a double-take when I saw that story, because I wrote essentially the same story last month, when John R. Leopold, Anne Arundel’s most recent former executive, was sentenced to 30 days behind bars on misconduct charges.
If there’s one thing that Democrats and Republicans in Maryland can agree on, it’s the awesomeness of the Baltimore Ravens.
(Unless they are Redskins fans, of course.)
The love for the purple-and-black was on display Friday in the House of Delegates, when Super Bowl champion and Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith stopped by a for a visit.
It came at an interesting time, as my colleague Alex Jackson explains in his weekly “From the Dome” column. State delegates had just waged a contentious battle over the state’s gas tax — so contentious that, at one point, Republicans walked off of the floor of the chamber in protest.
I was across the hall in the state Senate when all this happened, and I walked over to the House once the Senate wrapped up. As I approached the chamber, I heard applause and hollering, which didn’t make any sense, given how mad everyone was.
Then I stepped into the press area and saw Smith at the podium and all the cheering quickly made perfect sense.
One of my favorite celebrity-at-the-State-House stories was when Orioles great Cal Ripken Jr. visited. I remember senators from different jurisdictions laying claim to the Hall of Famer. Baltimore City said Ripken played there. Harford County pointed out he grew up there. Baltimore County pointed out that he currently lives there.
So many lawmakers wanted their picture with Ripken that the Senate president asked the shortstop to stay in the Senate lounge, and he excused senators a few at a time to get their photos.
I don’t know if the bills are going to go anywhere, and it’s not my place to advocate for or against them. But I am glad to see that my story has spurred discussions among lawmakers about the fines and the fund. That’s what I think newspapers should be all about: Sharing information and spurring discussion.
As I once heard the late, great Washington Post Publisher Katharine Graham say: “Newspapers give people the information they need to make our democracy work.”