Thursday, February 11, 2016


This is "citizen journalism" So is this. Both are accounts of the February 4th Board of Education meeting where Superintendent Renee Foose's contract was renewed under highly questionable circumstances.

This is an article in the Howard County Times by reporter Lisa Philip. Within this piece about yesterday's unanimous vote by the Howard County Delegation on public information requests is a discussion of that same meeting. The entire piece is beautifully written, but this section is particularly valuable as it shows us how elected officials are viewing what occurred in that filled-to-capacity boardroom.

I hope you'll read Nikki Schmidt's letter to the editor, and Lisa Philip's article as well, because both speak to glaring flaws in our local school system that need to be addressed. But you may not be able to if you've already read your three free articles this month and you're not a paid subscriber. If you are not, here is my pitch: is $15.96 per month a reasonable fee to be assured that someone highly trained and qualified is watching people who don't want to be watched?

Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations. -- George Orwell

There is a price for a free press. Free does not mean at no cost, it means free and independent from those who would seek to restrain it. If, as a citizen, you want that kind of news, you must pay for it. Advertising revenue does not suffice, no matter how much you think it should. Do you get three free sandwiches at the deli before you have to pay? Three free ball game tickets at Camden Yards? Three free doctor's visits? No? And does that reset itself each month for three more? No? Why not?

People must be paid. Materials and business expenses must be met. We pay for services and goods and don't expect to be offered a free ride. But we get mad or apathetic about paying for the news. We look at our family budgets and think it is an unnecessary expense.

When you think about the hundreds of thousands of dollars, actually millions, that are at stake in our school system, what would you be willing to pay for this one article alone? I'd wager at least the entire month's fee and then some. You can read it, discuss it with friends and neighbors, pass it around, use it as inspiration to write a letter of advocacy or to sign up to campaign for better Board members.

We pay through taxes to support our schools. And even though we may feel in our hearts that those taxes should be enough, that does not stop us from participating in PTA Fundraisers, restaurant nights, and all sorts of donations of time, money, and goods to support our schools. Because we know that tax money alone isn't sufficient, and that if we don't do it, who will?

Fifteen dollars and ninety six dollars per month is approximately $ .53 per day. So, substantially less than a large soda or fancy coffee daily. Probably less than a school restaurant night each month.

I can't possibly know whether you can afford it or not. That would be presumptuous of me to say.

I can ask you to strongly consider it.


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