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Vetoing journalists hurts public debate

9/18/2018 - Jealous campaign should lift veto of Tamela Baker from debate panel.

Maryland citizens will have one opportunity to hear the candidates for governor debate.  Monday, September 24, Ben Jealous and Larry Hogan will face off to discuss the issues.  Many Maryland news outlets will be on hand to report on the debate, informing and providing context for the public, and representatives from a handful of news organizations will be on the debate panel.  One reporter, however, will not be on the panel. Tamela Baker, of The Herald-Mail in Hagerstown, was vetoed from participating in the panel of questioners by Democratic candidate Ben Jealous. 

The MDDC Press Association is outraged that Baker, an award-winning journalist covering Maryland politics for decades for The Herald-Mail, has been singled out in this way.  To be clear, The Herald-Mail may still send a reporter to be part of the panel, just not Baker.  Executive Editor Jake Womer plans to send another reporter in Baker’s stead so that questions will be asked about western Maryland, but he or she will not have Baker’s long experience in covering how state government affects the region.  It’s the right thing to do.

Candidates should not have the ability to control the questions that are asked by manipulating who is in the room. News media is the watchdog of government on behalf of the public.  By circumventing certain reporters, the Jealous campaign is feeding into the unfortunate idea that candidates and government do not need to be accountable to the public.  This is reprehensible and the campaign should reverse its decision.

It matters to Maryland that the questions in the one gubernatorial debate represent a wide cross section of citizen concerns.  As core parts of their communities, news media is best suited to ask, and follow up, and follow up again on those questions.  We urge the Jealous campaign to reconsider its actions.

Rebecca Snyder
MDDC Executive Director

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