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Sun ends partnership with conservative political blog

March 11, 2014
By

rmbannerOne of the problems of running a modern American daily newspaper in the current divided political climate is keeping conservative readers happy, especially on the opinion side. Conservative readers have long railed against journalists as inherently liberal, and short of turning a paper into a carbon copy of the Washington Times, they are rarely satisfied with the editorial slant of coverage or the views expressed in the paper’s unsigned editorials.

To cater to those readers, newspapers will often either groom their own in-house conservatives (The Sun did this years ago with the late Gregory Kane, who began as a reader firing off letters to the editor, was brought on as a street reporter and upon the shuttering of the Evening Sun, was promoted to columnist) or partner with an already-established conservative blog, which the paper did with Red Maryland last November.

The partnership proved to be short-lived however, as the blog’s goal of “setting as many fires as possible in order to weaken the one-sided bent of [the Sun’s] liberal editorial stances” fell to charges of conflict of interest pointed out by … another conservative blogger. Sun director of marketing Renee Mutchnik told the liberal watchdog organization Media Matters for America that the paper severed its relationship with Red Maryland after finding out that the blog was soliciting advertising to political candidates via “our platforms at BaltimoreSun.comRedMaryland.com and the Red Maryland Network.” In addition, Red Maryland’s editor Mark Newgent has done paid work for the Larry Hogan for Governor campaign, a candidate Red Maryland gave its primary endorsement to back in December.

The interesting twist on the conservative kerfuffle comes as the conflict came to light through the posting of the entire Red Maryland solicitation email by former Gov. Robert Ehrlich staffer Joe Steffen on his blog Darkness Revisited. Steffen, as you may recall, was the self-described “Prince of Darkness” who was fired by Ehrlich back in 2005 after allegations came to light that he was spreading malicious rumors about then-Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley’s marital status on a conservative blog and in private emails.

Steffen, who most recently worked on the unsuccessful Dan Bongino campaign for the newly-redistricted 6th district congressional seat, called the Red Maryland solicitation “a paid protection racket” and said that several candidates forwarded it to him.  Steffen wrote on his blog, ‘Had the editors of Red Maryland written what I think they wanted to write, it would have been along the lines of ‘pay us and we’ll have you on our show and say nice things about you and we’ll fuck your opponent over. Capiche?’”

The Sun’s Mutchnik told Media Matters that The Sun “formally ended our freelance relationship with Red Maryland” on March 7 and said the paper “also strive[s] to avoid any conflicts of interest or the appearance of any conflicts among our staff and freelancers.”

 This is part of a series of media-watch posts partly inspired by City Paper’s ownership by the Baltimore Sun Media Group.

  • Jeff Quinton

    Just a quick nitpick, the Bongino campaign Steffen worked on is the campaign for the current election cycle and has not had an election yet. Steffen’s work was in Q3 of 2013 per FEC records. Bongino’s unsuccessful campaign was for US Senate in 2012.