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MDDC Editorial Awards Luncheon Just Small Part of MDDC Mission

By T.C. Cameron

The two signature events of MDDC’s annual calendar are almost upon us.

This week, the Editorial Awards contest, honoring the best in reporting, writing and photography among 125 member newspapers will take place May 17 at the Four Points by Sheraton at BWI Airport outside Baltimore. Less than a month after that, the MDDC Newspaper Hall of Fame/Distinguished Service Award reception will take place June 13 at the University of Maryland’s College of Journalism in College Park.

While these events are certainly the most visible, they’re just a small part of what MDDC does for the membership and for print journalism. Here’s a look at the other facets of MDDC’s overall mission.

Government Affairs

The Government Affairs Committee, which was chaired until this month by former Washington Post general counsel Eric Lieberman, directs the efforts of Executive Director Jack Murphy and lobbyist Ellen Valentino in dealing with local and state governments, in Maryland, Delaware and the District. The Maryland General Assembly concluded its 90-day annual session in April. The Delaware General Assembly session continues meeting to June 30, and the District Council meets throughout the year.

Highlights from the Maryland 2013 session included a strengthening of the Open Meetings Law, while the Public Information Act survived several attacks. Electronic records were opened permanently, and public notice laws were almost all preserved.

The MDDC supported passage of House Bill 331, which increased the fines for violation of Open Meetings Law and strengthened the compliance board. In addition, HB 139 will require all boards and commissions to designate members to be trained in the nuances of the act — ignorance of the law will no longer be an excuse for violations. MDDC also supported passage of HB 70/SB 342. This bill makes permanent the requirement that government release records in electronic format if requested.

MDDC opposed two bills which died in committee. SB 845 would have deleted all email addresses from correspondence with citizens, while SB 367 would have made election petitions confidential. MDDC also opposed several bills that would have allowed expungement or shielding of criminal records. Most of these bills were killed or weakened to a point of inconsequence.

MDDC also successfully fought HB1271, which sought to create a state right of publicity. It would have restricted the ability of newspapers to produce commemorative editions and books or sections, such as the products published by the Baltimore Sun Media Group and Landmark Communications after the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl.

Public Notice

MDDC was able to protect against four separate attacks against public notice, and newspaper publication of the comptroller’s abandoned property list was retained in the budget for a fourth consecutive year.

MDDC continues to publish MDDCNews.com, which publishes public notices from our member papers in a searchable format. The site, branded to match MDDCPress.com, also offers headline abstracts from many of our daily publications, including the Annapolis Capital, Baltimore Sun, Carroll County Times, Frederick News-Post, the Washington Times, The Washington Post and The News Journal in Wilmington, DE.

Communication

MDDC publishes ExPress News, a weekly, electronic newsletter of between 2,500 and 3,500 words. Staple features include This & That, Murphy's Law and the Member Spotlight. In March 2012, ExPress News moved to a weekly platform, replacing the once-a-month publication schedule that could no longer address news issues affecting the 125-paper membership in a timely manner. ExPress News replaced Press News, a monthly printed tabloid, in 2008.

Social Media

MDDC maintains the Twitter handle @MDDCPress, and in less than a year has garnered close to 300 followers and has published over 2,500 tweets. The association highlights three to four stories populated by headline abstracts from MDDCNews on a near-daily basis. Nearly every morning, we populate the reporter’s handle, a story tease and include a short link.

MDDC reporters often re-tweet or favorite these specific feeds, and for the second year in a row, several MDDC reporters took to Twitter to mention @MDDCPress specifically when news of the editorial awards came out.

In addition, MDDC maintains an active presence on Facebook, with daily posting about news generated by our members.

MDDC Contests and Awards

In addition to the annual editorial contest, MDDC continues to sponsor an advertising contest. While the annual luncheon was scraped this year due to declining attendance — due to shrinking advertising staffs at nearly all our member newspapers — the editorial luncheon features a served meal, a keynote speaker and an annual PowerPoint presentation.

Press Service

MDDC recently formed a new board of directors that will deal directly with advertising issues both within the membership and on behalf of the MDDC Press Service.

Advertising Director Wanda Smith offers three different networks to prospective and returning clients. The Classified Ad Network is comprised of 104* daily, community and regional newspapers and reaches more than 4.9 million* readers. The 2x2 Ad Network placements reach 82 community and regional newspapers and reach 4.9 million readers. Finally, the Daily Classified Connection allows a message from advertisers to be printed five days a week in 12 daily newspapers.

Foundation

The MDDC Press Foundation sponsors two notable programs.

The Michael S. Powell High School Journalist of the Year was conceived in 1999 and is conferred upon a graduating high school senior going to school in Maryland, Delaware or the District of Columbia. The winner receives a $1,500 cash scholarship award and is honored at the annual MDDC Editorial Conference in the spring.

This year’s winner is Michelle Chavez of Montgomery Blair High School.

Also conceived in 1999, the Reese Cleghorn Internship program offers eight collegiate journalism students attending either a university or college in Maryland, Delaware and D.C., or residing in the area but attending school elsewhere. Winners receive $2,400 for an eight-week internship at a member paper.
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