The case of the growling dog

Sean SpicerWhen approaching a growling dog wagging its tail, which end do you believe?
That’s the conundrum facing reporters in the White House press corps as the new administration works its way into a second month in office.
On the one hand we have a president calling the media the enemy while Tuesday press secretary Sean Spicer told assembled reporters the president has a “Deep respect for the First Amendment and the press.”


Solving the "Fake News" problem


MC DC - Hillarys Behghazi MomentIn an interview with The Sentinel this week incoming U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen said one of the greatest concerns facing the country is the “Fake News” currently spreading virally like a pestilence across the land – aided and abetted by a President-elect who acts like Typhoid Mary by tweeting factually inaccurate information gobbled up by the electorate as a sugar-freak gobbles twinkies.


Transparency? NOT!


censorshipOne of the leading cries heard by politicians from the local to the federal levels is how they are struggling hard to be “transparent” in their dealings with the public.
Don’t believe it. Not for one minute.

Last year this newspaper joined others in the state as some local politicians – under the guise of “cost cutting” decided cutting costs would mean cutting out local newspapers from certain revenue streams while at the same time allowing the local governments to post important notices on their own websites without the public’s involvement. It’s just the opposite of transparency, but if you say it often enough there’s the thought you can get most people to believe anything.
Luckily the measure failed.
Meanwhile we have some local politicians who – since the demise of The Gazette – continue to say there are no newspapers left in Montgomery County – despite the fact The Washington Post and The Montgomery County Sentinel both have a large presence in the county. We have been around 161 years and serve this county exclusively.
Again, it’s an excuse and attempt to demean the Fourth Estate.


The First Amendment and you

The First Amendment to the Constitution covers a great deal in very few words. Specifically it states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

If there is one word that is the most significant among the 44 words that comprise the amendment it is the word "Congress". The amendment is intended to prevent "Congress", and by Congress, the government, from enacting laws that would violate an individual's right to practicing his or her religion or exercising his or her right to free speech, a free press, assembling peaceably, or petitioning the government.


Congressional Candidates Support National Shield Law

  • Published in News

JK016739ROCKVILLE -- All nine candidates running in the 8th congressional district said they would support and sponsor a national shield law to protect journalists and their sources if they are elected to Congress.

During a debate hosted by the Montgomery County Sentinel Saturday at the Executive Office Building, state Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-20) paraphrased a quote from former President Thomas Jefferson by saying, "If I had to choose between a government without a newspaper or a newspaper without a government, I would not hesitate a moment to choose the latter.'

"The newspapers, which are under tremendous heat and economic stress... are an essential public voice and watchdog in what takes place in corporate America," said Raskin. "Not only would I support it and will I support it, I've been supporting it. And I would absolutely sponsor it because the last thing reporters need is more judges and cops and prosecutors breathing down their necks."

State Del. Kumar Barve (D-17) added that he tells his friends and relatives in India that "we aren't free because we're rich.

"We're rich because we're free. And there's no way to be free unless you protect the fourth estate," he said.

For former news anchor Kathleen Matthews (D), the issue is personal.


Registering politicians

Mike Pitts, a Republican – go figure – has introduced the South Carolina Responsible Journalism Registry Law which would define what a journalist is and keep a list of those who are seen as responsible and penalize those no on the list with fines or imprisonment.


Nothing to Fear but Loathing


statueoflibertyGive me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

- The Statue of Liberty

The inscription on the Statue of Liberty cannot be blunter. The actions of some of our country’s governors, including Maryland Governor Larry Hogan cannot be more obtuse.

Out of fear that some Syrian refugees could be terrorists there are governors of some of the United States who would defy federal law about the entry of these refugees to our soil.


Welcome to the Mizzou Nightmare


5641956dc46188e85b8b4590Nothing is more infuriating than ignorance. Nothing is more unacceptable than hypocrisy.

So imagine the combination of hypocritical ignorance.

That describes the scene at my alma mater – The University of Missouri this week.

In a nutshell the infuriating and unacceptable actions occurred among protesters at Mizzou who were angry about racial problems on campus.


The Ultimate Goal


11357022 957199850997336 5797792187684730729 o

H.L. Mencken hit on a hidden truth when he said in essence it is hard to imagine someone is telling the truth when you know in their position you wouldn’t.
How that translates to covering government cuts both ways.
Politicians, especially after seeing the biased reporting which is seemingly all-pervasive in our country today find it hard to trust anyone in the media. As for those of us in the media, after covering seemingly endless scandals from local, state and especially in the federal government it becomes increasingly difficult to look at politicians with anything less than a jaundiced eye.
While both mindsets are flawed, the results on the public can be both similar and wildly different. Ultimately those who have the power of subpoena, taxation and sit in the seats of power – elected by the people to serve us all - can be argued to have a greater responsibility to the electorate. You have but two senators in each state. If they do wrong, then you don’t have much redress for your grievances. If you don’t like a reporter, then you can turn the channel, read a different newspaper or find the information you want – whether it be true or not – on the Internet.
Those of us who gather information, therefore, seem to be mere flotsam in the scheme of things – a fact also reflected by Mencken when he said, “For example, the problem of false news. How does so much of it get into the American newspapers, even the good ones? Is it because journalists as a class are habitual liars?...I don’t think it is. Rather it is because journalists are, in the main, extremely stupid, sentimental and credulous fellows – because nothing is easier than to fool them.”
“It is this vast and militant ignorance, this widespread and fathomless prejudice against intelligence that makes American journalism so pathetically feeble and vulgar and so generally disreputable.”
So as Lisa Abraham, an editor in Columbus Ohio who was jailed for trying to defend the First Amendment in the early 90s, said at The National Press Club Monday night, “Why is it the first place government stops to get information is from a reporter?”
Why indeed? For if journalism is so disreputable, what does it say for those in public life who attempt to prey on the reporters and ultimately use them?
I was humbled to be in the room with Lisa and eight other reporters who, like me, went to jail at some point in their career trying to either protect a confidential source or keep the government from using them as investigators. The assembled group included author Vanessa Leggett, television personality and author Judy Miller, blogger and journalist Josh Wolf who holds the record for serving time – seven and a half months. Television producer Brad Stone, Abraham, print reporter Schuyler Kropf, publisher Libby Averyt and myself made up the bulk of those who spent time detained for our actions.
We met prior to an evening symposium at The National Press Club to get to know one another. Many of us had never met. We are a small club too. Just about a dozen and a half of us are alive and one of us, Jim Taricani, has significant health issues.
I found the meeting prior to the symposium enlightening and ultimately enjoyable in finding I was part of a family I was actually unaware of joining.
The gut wrenching decision to protect a source or your notes, or your videotape is incredibly difficult. It is so easy to give in, and ultimately most do to government officials. While every day many compromise themselves to corrosive threats by the lowest elected official to the highest, many more have stood up to say they will stand by what they have done. Usually you aren’t jailed.
But government intimidation is an 800 lb. gorilla in the room. Ultimately threats, catcalls of a wild and wide variety against the reporter, their abilities, their character and their motives can level most people.
But there is a cure and the nine of us who met this week are supportive of the initial step – a National Shield Law that will protect reporters from testifying and give our sources greater cover.
It is just a first step. Public officials found to be threatening reporters with incarceration or trying other means of coercion should pay a high price for those acts. Information should be more readily available to reporters and the cost of challenging the government when it withholds information should be eliminated.
It would go a long way to cleaning up government from the lowest to the highest miscreants.
Monday I got to take part in a historical meeting of some fascinating and enjoyable people.
My sincere hope is we don’t merely become a historic footnote.






constitutionFor 35 years I’ve been engaged in an exploration of facts.
On June 1 I will join more than a dozen other reporters who, like me, went to jail to try and protect a confidential source and promote the First Amendment. Please join us at The National Press Club for this event.
We may not be heroes, but we aren’t the problem either.
I relish the role of being a disinterested third-party observer. I have no hidden agenda other than to uncover the facts. I work very hard to refrain from putting opinions in news stories. I want to provide my readers and viewers with the facts and let them come up with their own opinion. If my facts are wrong, then correct me. Give me the facts.
Don’t sit on the sidelines complaining the media never “gets it” when you aren’t providing it.
Don’t claim a bias exists because your side doesn’t get printed. Don’t back down. Step up.
Those who decline to engage in a conversation are usually those who want to dictate the terms of communication. Many times they have the most to lose with an honest conversation. So, if you honestly want to see things change then engage.
At the end of the day, if my facts are correct and you’re still upset then look in the mirror and accept the consequences of your actions.
This is a hard concept to swallow on both ends of the spectrum. It seems audiences are driven by opinion-based journalism and it appears information providers love to spin the facts to suit their agenda.

Subscribe to this RSS feed