A friend often says to me, “If it’s news, it’s news to the Washington Post.” I couldn’t agree more.
We recently sent a request to the Inspector General asking him to investigate Councilmember Valerie Ervin for engaging in what we believe is improper behavior in seeking a contract with a county real estate investor to streamline the planning and zoning process. Ms. Ervin sought to spend $1.3 million in county funds on this no-bid contract. She’d been working on this deal since May. It was done behind closed doors and the investor is a constituent of hers. County ethics laws prohibit county officials and public employees from using “prestige of office for private gain or for the gain of another.” We think Ms. Ervin was clearly using her office to benefit this developer.
After sending our request to the IG, we sent a statement to the press including the Washington Post. While the Washington Post never misses an opportunity to defame our union, and slam public employee unions in general, they didn’t even bother to cover or even investigate unethical behavior of our county decision makers.
The Washington Examiner agreed that it was an issue worth covering. They ran the story over the Christmas holiday, and then ran an additional story when we filed the ethics complaint. The Gazette also ran an article. The Post isn’t even pretending to be a local newspaper any more – unless it means slamming us.
The Post’s ombudsman Patrick Pexton wrote an article in November complaining that the “Post forgets to be local.” He pointed out the Metro section is “barely there. Many days it is only six pages; sometimes it is eight.”
Warren Buffett, said Pexton, has pointed out the Post’s inadequate coverage to the Post’s editorial board. “A newspaper that reduces its coverage of the news important to its community is certain to reduce its readership as well…. No one has ever stopped reading half-way through a story that was about them or their neighbors.”
We reach out to the Post regularly to ask them to cover stories affecting our members, their jobs, county governments, and our numerous fights for better funding of county services in Montgomery and Prince Georges counties only to be rebuffed. The only time the Post seems to be interested in our goings-on is when the Post’s editorial board has decided that our collectively bargained contracts are overly generous. They then launch into a comparison of our jurisdiction with Fairfax County. However, when it comes to Ms. Ervin exploring a $1.3 million no-bid contract with a private developer, the Post has no interest.
Like Mr. Buffett and Mr. Pexton, we think the Post owes its readers true coverage of issues affecting the residents of Montgomery and Prince Georges counties and those issues include covering the improprieties of our decision makers no matter who brings it to their attention.