Thursday, January 21, 2010

Conservative Blogger Takes on Center Maryland

Red Maryland blogger Mark Newgent has called out the new political website Center Maryland for misrepresenting its purpose and mission. Let us shock the entire state’s blogosphere with this simple statement: Newgent has a point.

Center Maryland markets itself as “a new nonprofit media outlet that highlights issues of real importance to job creation and economic growth” and says it provides, “the news you need, straight down the middle.” But Newgent notes that the site’s founders include former officials in the administrations of Baltimore Mayor and Governor Martin O’Malley, Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith and soon-to-be former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon. Despite the obvious Democratic Party affiliations of the site’s backers, Center Maryland tells its readers that it is a “centrist, pro-business voice.” And yet, the website was founded in part by former employees of Governor O’Malley during the year of his re-election campaign.

Maryland Politics Watch and Red Maryland share a common virtue: everyone knows who we are and what we believe. MPW is a progressive blog. How could it be anything different when your author is a labor movement lifer and co-author Marc Korman is a member of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee? Red Maryland is a conservative blog. Its authors are enthusiastic right-wing activists. Some of them are columnists who have been published in the mainstream media while others have run for office as Republicans. No one comes to MPW to read odes to the free market, and no one goes to Red Maryland to read paeans to socialized medicine. Neither blog pretends to be something that it is not.

Newgent’s essay and our work on point to a growing problem with new media: readers cannot be sure of the agenda being promoted by these new websites. Is it news? Is it opinion? Can it be trusted? Is there an angle to it? Where is the money coming from? How are readers supposed to trust what they are reading?

We do not have the answers any more than you do. But we thank Mark Newgent, and Red Maryland, for raising the questions.