Nitkin: There have been some candidate forums, such as one sponsored by a doctors' group in Baltimore, but no true debates with impartial moderators and a large audience. Cardin does not believe he has the primary wrapped up. He continues to be a top contender for the Democratic nomination for Senate, and has put together a professional and seasoned campaign team.
MfumeKevin, Baltimore: How are [Kweisi] Mfume's fundraising totals so low? How on earth is he out-fundraised by [Lise] Van Susteren and [Allan] Lichtman? Does he still have a chance to win?
Nitkin: Mfume certainly has a chance to win. His fundraising totals are low indeed. We're not exactly sure why, but there is no denying that it is a much-discussed problem in political circles.
GanslerAndrew, Gaithersburg: Did you see [Montgomery County State's Attorney] Doug Gansler being interviewed on [Comedy Central's] The Daily Show (Jan. 30)? He looked like a complete fool. Will this hurt his chances of being the next [attorney general]?
Nitkin: It's hard not to look like a fool in the hands of The Daily Show's crack staff. Man, if Rob Corddry or Ed Helms ever got their hands on me, I'd shudder to think what the results would be. Many people, and one would have to guess, Doug Gansler among them, believe there is no such thing as bad publicity. While I TiVo the Daily Show, I missed the Jan. 30 episode. Did they spell Gansler's name right on the identification credit line? If so, that's worth more than any embarrassment he may have suffered.
Credibility and biasMarietta, Baltimore: While I give you credit for publishing some of the questions you receive that aren't complimentary to you, don't you think you protest too much? Often, you sound like you have memos from campaigns when writing your articles and in answers to the Q&As. It calls into question your credibility.
Nitkin: I have no memos in front of me when I write. I speak with representatives of all campaigns all the time, as well as with the candidates directly. I evaluate their claims, some of which are credible, and some of which are not. In this venue, I frequently present the arguments being offered by supporters and critics of the candidates and their parties. Readers are free to judge my credibility however they see fit. I hope they -- and you -- find me to be credible.
Leshawn, Baltimore: The Sun is having terrible declines in circulation, is in the middle of a federal lawsuit with the governor, Michael Olesker plagiarized his columns and you have an obvious political bent. Do you think adding all of this up, The Sun's outlook could be any worse?
Nitkin: The Sun's circulation declines have the same root cause as those facing large metropolitan newspapers across the country, as readers look to television, radio, the Internet, podcasting and other venues for their information. The Sun is suing the governor because, in our view, he illegally banned all executive branch state government employees from speaking with me and [former Sun] columnist Michael Olesker. The ban came after aggressive reporting on an aborted real estate deal in Southern Maryland that involved selling state-owned forest to a politically connected contracting company owner for the same price the state paid for it, with no appraisal and no immediate guarantee of preservation protection. As a member of the Board of Public Works, the governor was briefed on and approved the first half of the transaction -- having the state buy the land for preservation -- but the second half, the sale to Willard Hackerman, was aborted after our reporting. Aides to the governor, including Deputy Chief of Staff Ed Miller, worked aggressively to complete the deal, publicly released e-mail messages show.
Olesker resigned after being confronted with a few examples of wording similar to that in our paper and other publications in background paragraphs. It has never been shown -- although partisan accusations have been made -- that Olesker fabricated quotations or made up individuals or stole ideas outright from others.
My political bent, if I have one, is hopefully not obvious -- but of course I'm not in the best position to judge that.
So, we can do your math and add all this up to one conclusion.
Or, we can look at The Sun's redesign, our ongoing commitment to top-shelf journalism, our unparalleled reporting resources in Maryland, the energy and talent that Sun reporters and editors bring to their jobs every day to keep readers informed and to afflict the comforted and comfort the afflicted, and we can reach an entirely different conclusion.
My glass is half-full, even in an unquestionably difficult newspaper environment.
Paulie, Glen Burnie: How does The Sun justify pure evidence of bias like when O'Malley got seven endorsements, it was on the front of the B section, but when Duncan got 50, it was buried next to the obituaries? I understand Martin is the local boy, but ignoring Duncan seems more premeditated and coordinated. You're an editor. What's up?
Nitkin: We haven't ignored any candidate. I'm not sure exactly which stories to which you are referring. We've had several stories of endorsements for candidates in the race for governor and Senate. They're not usually major stories. Often, they run inside our metro section. The competing news of a given day often dictates where and how stories are displayed.
Ken, Gambrills: Thank you for the Q&A. My question is about the "left slant" of The Sun. Your paper has featured three articles to date on the governor's campaign director with no new or real news involved. Also, you fail to report on issues such as the identity of MD4Bush, his job with the mayor, state Democratic Party staff departures, etc. Why pretend?
Nitkin: We've had two major stories on the hiring of Bo Harmon as Ehrlich's political director. We had a story when he was hired, which got into how he is viewed in Georgia and his role working for Saxby Chambliss, who defeated former Sen. Max Cleland in a race that featured very controversial attacks on Cleland's patriotism. Then, reporter Andy Green went to Georgia to work on a fuller profile piece. This was all news to our readers. We've reported all we need to so far on MD4Bush and Democratic departures. Who's doing the pretending here, Ken?