We subscribe to the Kent County News because that weekly knows how to covers its political beat, reporting on what is happening at town and county meetings and presenting it as it unfolds in the open sessions. Periodically when the elected officials hold closed doors meetings, the neighboring paper is quick to challenge that decision in editorials and through the legal system. Such detailed, careful reporting of what goes on in public meetings is a critical role newspapers play in helping to keep a balance in the political process and it is an important way editors add value to their product.
What has us writing about this subject this evening is the lead editorial in the Eastern Shore paper. It took the school board to task for bypassing the political process by failing to allow the public to observe its actions at several closed sessions. This is the kind of reporting we’ve come to expect from this excellent paper for its editors frequently take the political leadership to task for violating provisions of the Maryland Open Meetings Act.
But what have we had in Cecil County recently? There was the Cecil Whig piece saying that a county closed door meeting on the SPCA matter was appropriate. We challenged that assertion when the paper made it for we are sure the county has enough administrators and attorneys on the public payroll to help them make their own case. It would be a much more valuable contribution to good government if the newspapers would challenge these sorts of decisions, rather than defending them. They sure aren’t going to be able to bring home quality content if it is all done behind closed doors. In fact, we’re willing to bet that very few editors go out of their way to approve of closed door meetings. The more sunshine we have on the activities of government, the better it is for everyone. But apparently our local paper doesn’t see if that way, but they do in Kent County.
Note: When it came time to consider renewing our subscription to the Whig, we discovered that the paper was changing it’s Internet business strategy. They are now including free access to the web site for subscribers. That’s a step in the right direction, but we suspect eventually they will have to make all of their content, plus lots more, available on the web. On the very day that the New York Times decided there wasn’t enough web traffic for a paid subscription model for the nation’s daily, our local paper decided it would charge for access. We’re sure there isn’t enough income generated by that approach to pay the cost associated with managing the web site. It is fascinating how fast the models for advertising are moving away from print and papers need to get ahead of that curve if they are going to survive.