Tag Archives: Washington Post

The Post Should Hire Andrew Metcalf Right Now

By Adam Pagnucco.

MoCo’s most feared man, former Washington Post reporter Bill Turque, has left to terrorize hapless local politicians in Kansas City.  In a rare moment of self-reflection, the newspaper’s bosses have come to realize that “our digital and print readers crave local news” and have posted an ad seeking a Turque successor.  (Let’s remember that this is the same company that killed the Gazette!)  We are sure they will get many qualified applicants, but there’s one name that’s a total no-brainer:

Bethesda Magazine reporter Andrew Metcalf.

Metcalf is a Young Turque.  Just like his older counterpart, Metcalf has been ripping off political band-aids since he arrived here three years ago.  He has covered nearly everything in the county, including budgets, taxes, term limits, legislation, last year’s Congressional election, the Purple Line and much, much more.  His coverage of the liquor monopoly has been second to none, especially his exposure of Delegate Ben Kramer’s conflict of interest as a county liquor store landlord.  He obtained video of Governor Larry Hogan accusing a judge who had ruled against the Purple Line of living at a nearby country club (an inaccurate statement).  He was the first mainstream news reporter to break the news that John Delaney was running for President.  Finally, Metcalf is the author of one of our favorite local stories of all time: “Supposed Nigerian Prince, Robert Lipman Imposter File Public Information Requests with County.”  African monarchs everywhere are writing him into their wills!

Perhaps even more important than his body of work is this fact: Metcalf knows us.  He knows our elected officials, their staffers, the activists, the players and lots of people involved with our political culture.  He knows the structure of the government at both the state and county levels.  He knows our issues: schools, transportation, crime, taxes, jobs, inequality, immigration, cultural diversity and so many others.  He has a deep source network.  And he is developing that combination of respect, trust and wariness that local reporters have with political establishments.  Politicians know they need to be ready when Metcalf calls!

All of these things take time for reporters to develop.  The problem is that we don’t have a lot of time in this county.  One of the most historic elections in our county’s history is approaching in less than a year – and that’s the amount of time it takes most decent reporters to get established.  If the Post hires a brand new person who knows nothing about our county, by the time that person figures out where the bathrooms are, the election will be over.  The obvious solution is to hire a good reporter who already has years of experience covering us and that’s Metcalf.

We understand that Bethesda Magazine publisher Steve Hull is preparing to fire mortar shells at our beloved Limerick Pub in retaliation for this post.  We can’t blame him!  But for the good of the community, the good of local journalism and the good of its own bottom line, the Washington Post needs to hire Andrew Metcalf.  Right.  Frickin.  Now.

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Politicians Rejoice as Bill Turque Leaves

By Adam Pagnucco.

The most feared person in MoCo politics is not an elected official.  He’s not a union leader, a developer, a big contributor or even a blogger.  He’s Washington Post reporter Bill Turque, who has covered the MoCo beat for over four years.  Happily for politicians and unhappily for the rest of us, Turque has stepped down and it’s unclear what the Post will do next.

MoCo officials did not fully understand what they were getting when Turque began writing about the county.  Among his many previous assignments, Turque covered former D.C. public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, a FAR tougher figure than any MoCo politician.  Turque’s battle for information from the school system escalated to the point when his own bosses tried to censor him.  Then there’s the story of when the Post allowed Rhee to use one of their conference rooms to hold a meeting.  Rumor has it that Turque quietly walked in with a notepad.  Rhee was about as pleased as a bride who sees a cockroach in her wedding cake!

Politicians in MoCo had it easy from the Post until Turque showed up.  His two predecessors on the MoCo beat were Mike Laris, who wrote one or two articles a month, and Victor Zapana, who was fresh out of college.  Neither knew a lot about the county.  Turque, in contrast, was a long-time resident who quickly learned the history and the players.  Before long, inconvenient stories began appearing in the paper.  Politicians began longing for the days of scanty coverage!

How to pick the Best of Turque?  There are so many articles to choose from.  There’s the time when he outed a union-linked operative as the author of an anonymous attack website targeting former Council Member Valerie Ervin.  Then there was the article in which he called out the County Council for violating its own law on Public Information Act disclosure in taking down email addresses from the county’s website.  Council Member Marc Elrich, who has long said he turns away developer money, was caught by Turque taking money from an attorney who represents developers.  Council Member George Leventhal has yet to recover from Turque’s posting a video of his berating budget director Jennifer Hughes from the dais which was cited in Bethesda Magazine’s coverage of his Executive campaign launch.  And then there’s the Silver Spring Transit Center fiasco, the subject of countless Turque articles up to his flaying the county for getting fleeced by lawyers and experts.  Years ago, a Leggett administration official complained to me about Turque’s relentless coverage of the transit center.  Your author replied, “You can’t blame the wolf for liking the taste of meat!”

Perhaps no politician in the county will be happier to see Turque leave than David Trone.  Turque wrote a story on Trone’s political contributions early in his candidacy for Congress including the now-infamous Trone quote “I sign my checks to buy access.”  Trone’s campaign never got past that statement.  But there was more, including coverage of the Trone Spy and a Trone company’s payment of a fine for making illegal campaign contributions.  We think Trone should celebrate Turque’s retirement by instituting a blow-out sale at Total Wine.  Spread the joy, Mr. Trone!

The key to understanding Turque is that he’s an old-school, all-business reporter.  If you have real information, he’ll look at it.  If you have BS, spin or rumor that repeatedly doesn’t pan out, he sniffs it out lickety-split.  The worst thing one could ever do with Turque is tell him “there’s no story there.”  To Turque, that is proof that there actually IS a story and it will make him dig harder.  One more thing.  Your author has spent countless hours eating sushi with Turque and to this day I have no idea who he voted for.

The future after Turque is hazy at best.  The Post is searching for a successor.  It’s possible that the Post will bring on another newbie like Zapana or perhaps have its MoCo beat reporter take on work outside the county as its solicitation suggests.  Either of those possibilities would likely result in declines of coverage here.  Add that to the demise of the Gazette and the Examiner and, other than Bethesda Magazine and a couple online outlets, we could have a news desert at a time of historic change in county politics.

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Washington Post Looking for Turque Successor

By Adam Pagnucco.

The Washington Post has posted an employment ad seeking a successor to recently departed MoCo beat reporter Bill Turque.  We will have much more to say about Turque soon, but for now, we re-post the ad itself.  (Andrew Metcalf, do you see this?)

*****

The Washington Post’s Metro desk is looking for a reporter to cover government and politics in Montgomery County, Maryland’s largest and perhaps most powerful jurisdiction.

This is a crucial role, as our digital and print readers crave local news. We are looking for a reporter who can provide strong and authoritative coverage of county government and elections, which are unfolding in a new era of term limits and public campaign financing. As the Metro desk continues to try to redefine local news coverage, we are looking for someone who can spot trends in Montgomery and tell readers across the nation why what’s happening in Montgomery has resonance for them. Similarly, the successful candidate will be able to explain how national issues have real-world consequences right here in Montgomery County.

Covering Montgomery County is a great opportunity to write about issues facing 21st-century suburbs, including immigration, the growing importance of mass transit and the challenges posed by aging neighborhoods and infrastructure. It’s also a great place for accountability reporting, with a budget of $5.4 billion and thousands of employees. In addition, there are nearly a million people who live in Montgomery County, and there are human stories to tell.

We are looking for a reporter who can be a collaborative part of our Maryland politics team by helping to cover the upcoming governor’s race and Congressional mid-terms.

If you are interested, please contact Debbi Wilgoren (debbi.wilgoren@washpost.com) Monica Norton (monica.norton@washpost.com), Mike Semel (mike.semel@washpost.com) or Tracy Grant (tracy.grant@washpost.com) no later than Aug. 11.

 

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WaPo Endorses in MoCo Legislative Races

You can find the full endorsements online:

District 14
House: Kaiser, Luedtke, Zucker

District 15
House: Dumais, Miller, Fraser-Hidalgo

District 16
Senate: Lee
House: Kelly, Frick, Korman

District 17
Senate: Kagan
House: Barve, Platt, Hoffman

District 18
Senate: Madaleno
House: Gutierrez, Waldstreicher, Shetty

District 19
House: Kramer, Cullison, Bardack

District 20
House: Hixson, Unger, Jawando

 

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WaPo Picks Up the Story

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I’m naturally pleased that the Washington Post picked up the story on the controversy over Aisha Braveboy and her lack of support for LGBT rights in the General Assembly, including a lengthy quote from the post on this blog.

At the same time, it’s frustrating that they linked to Del. Braveboy’s defense of her position and missed the actual controversy. Specifically, Del. Braveboy’s story over her change of heart is not credible because the incident that she describes as the “defining moment” in her “evolution” occurred 11 months after the marriage equality referendum in which she claims to have voted yes.

Moreover, now Del. Braveboy is claiming that she really supported marriage equality but just not this bill:

“I look at nearly every bill and I make judgments based on the policy and they way the bill was drafted and written,” Braveboy said Tuesday. “While I may have supported the concept, I didn’t support the bill.”

Odd since she was viewed as a leader of opponents in the House of Delegates and certainly had no interest in passing a pro-marriage bill, or even milder pro-LGBT legislation in earlier sessions. If she “supported the concept,” she hid it well.

So while I am grateful to the Washington Post for giving the issue more coverage, it feels like a swing and a miss.

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