Letter to the Editor: The importance of local journalists

The Dorchester Banner welcomes letters and guest opinions from readers on issues of public interest.

To the Editor:

A friend in Cambridge recently emailed the Banner article, “Sheriff’s request for interrogation room denied, 3-2; Space goes to EMS for breakroom,” from the Jan. 22 edition, written by Editor Dave Ryan.

I was taken aback by the level of thorough reporting of Mr. Ryan, which required a follow-up with the county attorney to confirm proper voting procedure of the Dorchester County Council.

Whereas local journalism news was once robust, in my lifetime I have seen print papers and websites dry up. I can name more than a dozen print papers in Washington and Baltimore, and as many online news sites that have shuttered within recent memory.

Across the Bay, Frederick, Montgomery County and Prince George’s counties were once served by a series of weekly Gazettes that uniquely covered several cities and towns. Their closure in 2015 was one of the first decisions by Jeff Bezos upon acquiring the Washington Post from the Graham family. The Montgomery County Sentinel, published since the 1850s, will have ceased publication by the time you read this letter.

My lamentations are not simply over and for a bygone era. My concern is that local journalists with their eyes and ears attuned to the street are the only ones truly paying attention to the goings-on of local and statewide government. Entrenched reporters, like Mr. Ryan, are in a way citizen inspectors general.

They are looking out for us ‑ the public. Their authority to do so in the public interest has been protected across generations and geography by our Constitution since the adoption of the Bill of Rights and the First Amendment in 1791.

Local reporters and editors, such as Mr. Ryan, attend community functions and festivals, zoning hearings, board of education forums, police citizen advisory meetings, awards ceremonies, memorial services, crime scenes and court rooms, cross-county and cross-town sports rivalries and everything in between that may be newsworthy.

Not being a Shoreman, I follow local news closely so as to better understand the region’s history and current affairs as it informs my continuous research of the history of Frederick Douglass in the area, including Cambridge and Dorchester County.

As a journalist, Mr. Ryan serves his community with a public record of accountability and responsibility all should take special note of and this out-of-towner especially acknowledges. As thankless as service as a journalist can be, alongside our teachers, police officers, trashmen, health and social workers, coaches and other worthy professions, their day-in and day-out dedication to our communities, as exemplified by Mr. Ryan, is fundamental to our most basic freedoms.

In 1884, Frederick Douglass, editor emeritus of the old abolitionist newspapermen, wrote, “While pen and press are free, I for one will not despair.”

I second these sacred sentiments and thank all journalists who continue to cover Shore communities as meticulously and scrupulously as Mr. Ryan of the Banner.

John Muller
Washington, D.C.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Thank you, Mr. Muller. It is an honor and a privilege to serve the people of Dorchester County.]