Breaking (or Broken) News?
Posted by Buzz Beeler on 21st January 2017

October 16, 2015 10:46 am ET

East County Times publishes a “not quite exclusive” piece on outlet mall

Source: Breaking (or Broken) News?

Photo/East County Times Facebook

“Breaking news! Exclusive!”

Reminds me of the days of the newsboys on the corner barking, “Extra, extra! Read all about it!”

One of the great classic movies on the business of journalism, “His Girl Friday,” epitomizes the need for speed in the world of news and information. But, in that quest for speed, what often times is missing are the facts.

I’ll explain that in a bit.

I’m referring to the front page of the October 16 issue of the East County Times, specifically Devin Crum’s article on the White Marsh Mall bankrolling the petition drive against the proposed outlet mall.

In a nut shell, what may appear to be breaking news (and all of the glossy adjectives to describe it) is, in fact, pure hype.

How so? Well, while the article does contain unpublished information and is somewhat objective, there is an underlying current of slanted words toward the developer, Paragon, which wants to build a 110 outlet mall in White Marsh.

Let’s start right from the beginning with this statement from Devin Crumb’s article:

“The financial disclosure documents, filed with the Baltimore County Board of Elections and obtained by the East County Times last week, show that the referendum petition’s only reported income – a total of $208,889.03 – came from General Growth Properties Inc., which owns White Marsh Mall.”

Is that really breaking news? Not actually. In an earlier article, Mr. Crumb wrote, “…White Marsh Mall and some citizens who oppose it…”

Did I mention the lawsuit involving the this matter? Did I mention they were taxpayers?

That seems to cast some doubt on the “breaking news” aspect. It’s not unreasonable to connect the dots regarding the funding issue in opposition to Paragon’s outlet proposal.

How else is the WM mall supposed to fight a council member who appears to be in the pocket of the developer to the tune of at least $5,000 in campaign donations? Why did Councilman Tom Quirk jump in this fight when his district is on the other side of town? One name comes to mind—Jim Smith.

Mr. Crum fails to write about that.

Another quote from the article adds more credence to this issue. “White Marsh Mall argued in legal hearings…would place a burden on them.”

For me it’s not hard to figure out that the WM Mall has some major skin in this game. Speaking of skin—or, in this case, skins—Mr. Crumb makes no mention of how much money Paragon has spent on the same issue.

Another key point is the democratic way, which—in my humble opinion—was circumvented when the council passed this legislation to pave (literally and physically) the way for the developer to move ahead with this boondoggle.

Mr. Crum seems to think the law is a one-way street, and that it’s OK for the developer to have a council member in its pocket. Yet, when White Marsh mall fights back (which, by the way, is totally legal), that somehow qualifies as front page news.

Here are some other quotes from Mr. Crum’s “exclusive” story:

“No surprise there,” said Kelvin Antill, partner with Paragon Outlets which is seeking to build the outlet mall on a 50-acre parcel along MD Route 7 in White Marsh. “The [financial disclosure] form shows everything they’ve been trying to hide.

“Anti-competition is what it has always been about, and trying to stop what will be a very good project for Baltimore County and the surrounding area,” he continued.”

Some comments here. WM mall is under no obligation to tell Mr. Antill a darn thing; however, speaking of hiding, I made numerous phone calls to Paragon and even talked to directly to one of Paragon’s executives, a Ms. Ann Beegle, in an elevator about my repeated request for documents to back up their testimony at the council hearing. I even joked I won’t hold my breath for a reply.

Good thing I started to breathe. It was like talking to a wall.

Mr. Crum seems to forget that this is all about business, with the exception of the matter of in whose pocket the council resides.

Rather than support Mrs. Bevin’s and the council’s agenda, Mr. Crum should take note of the 30,000 signatures on the petition to send this thorny issue to the voters and not the seven rubber stampers sitting on the council. I think there might be a message in there somewhere, like this one from Ms. Heather Patti, who wrote, “I am curious to review any and all financial disclosure records for Protect the Process and Protect Baltimore County, et all. Who is funding the “anti-petition?” Who would encourage voters NOT to exercise their right to vote on a clearly very controversial issue?

One might think that this subject just might call for closer scrutiny especially when a former state delegate, Jim Bishop wrote a scathing letter to the Sun in opposition to the proposed outlet mall.

That, folks, is the true democratic way—let the voters decide.

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