Banned, On the Run
Baltimore Police freeze out a Sun reporter; Sun management follows suit
Commissioner Batts' security detail blocks Justin Fenton at a press conference (Justin Fenton via Twitter / May 14, 2014)
Rosen sat down with police brass, newsroom sources say, and was told that the freeze would not be lifted until the police received a written apology. This was not forthcoming.
And so the standoff continues.
The Sun has faced freeze-outs before from public officials, most famously in 2004, when then-Governor (now Sun columnist) Robert Ehrlich directed all executive agencies not to answer inquiries from state house bureau chief David Nitkin (now a Howard County government official) and columnist (now-not columnist) Michael Olesker. That time, the newspaper fought back, publishing editorials and taking the administration to court (where, alas, it lost).
The paper's silence on the latest silent treatment stands in sharp contrast, but it's not out of character. Public officials nationwide have always frozen out reporters who displeased them, but lately the bans seem to last longer-or forever-because many government officials no longer believe they need good press relations. As James Rosen wrote last July in the Columbia Journalism Review after two separate congressmen had put him in the deep freeze, "Many elected representatives no longer view talking with independent reporters as part of their duty in American democracy, but rather as a privilege to be granted or withdrawn as reward or punishment for coverage deemed favorable or unfavorable."
Perhaps, to "elected officials," it is necessary to add "appointed officials." And maybe-we hope not-"newspaper editors."
UPDATE: Just after our print deadline Tuesday, both Sun spokeswoman Renee Mutchnik and Baltimore Police Spokesman Acting Captain J. Eric Kowalczyk got back to City Paper with statements. Mutchnick: The Baltimore Sun's coverage of the police department is unmatched. We, along with Justin Fenton, will continue to provide the comprehensive coverage our readers have come to expect.
And Kowalczyk: The relationships and interactions between reporters and members of the Baltimore Police Department contribute to the overall ability to keep the public rightfully informed about their Police Department. The Baltimore Police Department continues to have a strong relationship with all of the media outlets in Baltimore and we remain committed to ensuring that every media outlet has as much access as is possible without violating law or compromising investigations.
*An earlier version of this story said that Sun crime and courts editor Andy Rosen made the call to remove Mcneill's name from the paper's early blog coverage of his shooting. A source in the Sun newsroom informs us that Rosen did not make the call. Managers above him made the decision.