Former Md. governor Ehrlich: Our new wordsmith


The Writer: Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

“A lot of people have this view of you as the jock governor,” an interviewer reminded him.

Ehrlich: “Yeah.”

“This is a relatively intellectual book,” the interviewer said.

Ehrlich’s retort: According to his wife, he is actually a “jock nerd.”

The jock nerd has apparently really warmed to the life of a writer — it can’t be for the money, trust me — because he has found another outlet willing to publish his prose: The Baltimore Sun.

Ehrlich has just signed a contract to write a weekly op-ed column on national politics. This news shocked me not only because of Ehrlich’s jock nerd rep, but because, as longtime Maryland political junkies will certainly recall, the former governor was essentially at war with the newspaper during his entire Annapolis tenure.

The Sun’s own report on Ehrlich’s hiring summarized the battles nicely:

The level of animosity between The Sun and the former governor was extraordinary even in an era when politicians and the press often play adversarial roles. Ehrlich shunned the paper after a 2002 editorial endorsed his Democratic opponent for governor. The editorial said Ehrlich’s running mate, then state GOP Chairman Michael S. Steele, was chosen for the ticket because he was black, prompting outrage from Republicans.

Then, after a series of articles that he felt were biased, about a state plan to sell preserved forestland to a construction company owner, Ehrlich banned state employees from speaking with two of the paper’s reporters in 2004. The Sun sued the Ehrlich administration that year in an attempt to lift the ban but lost in federal court.

The writing business is a difficult one.

From the publisher’s perspective, there’s just so much pressure to find new and exciting voices that cut through all the nonsensical, unoriginal prose filling up our newspapers, magazines, Web browsers, iPhones, iPads, Kindles and Android devices. Finding something distinctive to read in the waiting room at the dentist has become a real conundrum.

Meanwhile, from the writer’s perspective, the most basic obstacle has not changed despite all the new reading platforms: Finding a big name publisher is just so tricky. Lots of writers still face rejection every single day.

Perhaps all that explains why both sides buried the hatchet.

“In a very real sense, it marks a closed chapter,” Ehrlich said of his new writing gig, so enamored with the writing business that he’s comfortable tossing around sentences that show his understanding of predictable metaphors. Andrew A. Green, The Sun’s opinion editor, said, “We’ve moved on, and he’s moved on.”

I have no idea whether Ehrlich will have anything interesting to say, but I do know this: I will be reading him.

Michael Rosenwald is a reporter on the Post's local enterprise team. He writes about the intersection of technology, business and culture.

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