Seven cities within 22 miles of The Post’s newsroom on 15th Street NW held elections for mayor and council last Tuesday. Together, their population totals 268,000 people.
Not a word about any of these cities appeared in the Nov. 9 or Nov. 10 print editions of The Washington Post. And very little appeared online on election night or the next day. The cities are all in Maryland, four of them in the jurisdiction that complains almost constantly of being ignored by The Post: Prince George’s County.
Here’s the cities that The Post missed, with each one’s population and a link to its final election results:
Rockville — 61,000
Gaithersburg — 59,000
Bowie — 54,000
College Park — 30,000
Laurel — 25,000
Greenbelt — 22,000
Takoma Park — 16,000
Carol A Griffith is one of many Maryland readers who wrote or called to protest:
Wow – who knew the Northern Virginia subscribers were paying more for their Post subscriptions? That’s the only reason I can think of to account for the 2++ pages of election coverage, including multiple large photos and commentary, in Wednesday’s issue, and not one word about any of the Maryland election results.
Now, obviously the Virginia elections were of interest; they had portents for next year, etc., etc. but we in Maryland had a reasonable expectation of finding something about our races in Wednesday’s issue. Perhaps if just one of the fascinating, attention–grabbing pictures of people in voting booths in Virginia could have been deleted, maybe we in Maryland could have had a square inch or two for a few of our results. I think The Post owes its Maryland subscribers an apology.
The Virginia elections received in Wednesday’s newspaper a front-page story, another on Page A8, five more in the Metro section, plus a Metro columnist’s analysis and all the election vote-total boxes. On Thursday, five more stories appeared on the Virginia elections, one in the A section, the others in Metro.
It’s true that Virginia’s elections had more national implications. They included state legislative elections and county elections. They could be a harbinger to next year’s presidential and congressional elections in the commonwealth. The total population affected in Virginia by the Nov. 8 ballots was much higher than 268,000.
And, yes, turnout in the Maryland municipal elections was small — the highest was in Rockville, at 17 percent. And yes, in most cases, incumbents in these cities were reelected.
Still, there were good stories to tell. In the closely contested Rockville mayor’s race, which got quite nasty in the end, the incumbent and victor, Phyllis Marcuccio, was pitted against Piotr “Peter” Gajewski, the conductor of the National Philharmonic, an orchestra that plays at Strathmore Hall in Bethesda.
Originally from Poland, Gajewski, a City Council member, came close to toppling Marcuccio. It would be like Christoph Eschenbach, musical director of the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, running to unseat D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and nearly succeeding.
Toward the end of that race, the Marcuccio camp accused the Gazette newspapers, which The Washington Post Co. owns, of bias toward Gajewski in its coverage because a couple of executives at the Gazette serve as advisers and board members to Strathmore and the Philharmonic. And Post’s Local staff couldn’t find a story to do? Oh my.
Even with races where longtime mayors won reelection, such as in Laurel and Bowie, why not do a story about what makes these mayors win over and over again. What are the reasons for their success? Or are their victories a case of voter apathy?
But to have nothing on the Maryland elections? Tsk-tsk.
Local Editor Vernon Loeb acknowledged the mistake.
“I regret not having something in the paper on Wednesday,” he said. “We should have had a roundup story in the paper. It’s a lesson learned. We’ll do better next time.”
Loeb did note that, under the new thematic way the suburban counties are being covered — doing stories that apply to all of the suburbs, instead of just one — the Local desk is less geographically focused. And as editors and reporters focus more on Web and social-media content, they sometimes get “fractured,” Loeb said, and forget the daily newspaper.
About 20,000 people cast their ballots in the Maryland municipal elections in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties that day. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, people still rely on newspapers, whether print or online, to get most of their information on local government, taxes, social services, zoning and development — far more often than with television. So the chances are good that many of those Maryland voters are Post readers. They should not be neglected.
And if they are, they’ll drop their home delivery subscriptions quicker than you can say Free State.