Asked to respond to the furor over Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s denunciation of the press last night, a spokesman did not repudiate Young’s statement but sought to explain it.
“No one is saying, and the Council President isn’t saying, that you can’t cover conflict when policymakers are making decisions that affect citizens,” spokesman Lester Davis told The Brew. “The public has a right to get a window into how folks make decisions.”
What Davis said Young objects to is “when the story is just meant to draw eyeballs and not meant to inform the citizens.”
Asked if he could point to any particular news coverage that prompted Young’s criticism, Davis said “there was no trigger. I talked with him about it this morning.”
Young’s media criticism came at a community meeting held by Mayor Catherine Pugh in West Baltimore last night.
After brief remarks praising Pugh to the crowd of City Hall bureaucrats and about 30 citizens, Young took a shot at the press.
“The more we can keep the news media out of our business the better we can run this city,” he said.
Who is “we?”
Davis said Young understands the role of the media in a democracy.
“Nobody wants to be some dictatorial entity, something operated by a king – all-seeing and all knowing and where there is no free press,” Davis said.
But Young’s complaint, Davis said, reflects his boss’ general thinking going back to 2010.
If there was any trigger, Davis speculated, it might be “just in our national discourse about the media’s role.”
“There’s that conflict between folks who are truly holding people accountable and others in the media who are having to take a hard look at themselves right now,” he said.
Asked about the pronoun choice in Young’s statement (“the more we can keep the news media out of our business”), Davis said it does not refer to insiders or councilmembers.
“The ‘we’ encompasses the citizens,” the spokesman said. “The ‘we’ is Baltimore.”
UPDATE 2:30 pm:
President Young has used his twitter feed to say that The Brew did not quote him accurately last night.
“That’s not actually what I said or meant,” he told a Fox45 reporter.
“We recorded these remarks and this quote is verbatim,” Reporter Fern Shen replied, to which Young said:
“But did you properly provide context and texture? Let be be clear, our city, state, and country depends on a well-functioning and Free press. Reporters have a tough job to do and my ACTIONS over the years have reflected this.”