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Who Will Tell the People

posted Nov 28, 2010, 6:27 PM by Howard Ernst   [ updated Nov 29, 2010, 3:19 PM ]

When the Bay dies there will be no headlines, no major news flash, no one to sound the alarm. “The Bay” is as much an idea, as it is a place of water and mud. But to keep the idea alive requires capturing the attention of the general public, and for years the key to that was capturing headlines. But as anyone who reads a daily paper knows, and there are fewer and fewer of us, the number of headlines are shrinking, the amount of print given for each headline shrinking even more, and the number of professional journalists covering the  Bay can now be counted on one hand.

This week we lost another Bay reporter. David Fahrenthold hadn’t covered the Bay any longer than other journalists nor had he written the most in-depth stories about the Bay,  but he did capture the imagination of area with first-rate stories. He covered the Bay for the last few years for the venerable Washington Post, and gave us memorable stories about a snakehead fish that could walk on the land and eat your poodle, he taught people about the death of the oyster, and helped expose the misuse of computer modeling at the Bay Program– and in turn he helped to foster real change within an organization that desperately needs oversight.

But like so many others, David has left the Bay beat, moved on to greener pastures, covering the freshmen class of Congress no less. David’s new job is to show us how people who are at war with government plan to govern, noble work indeed and certainly a smart career move for an exceptionally smart young reporter.  As it turns out, covering the slow death of the Bay is not the best career option for someone struggling to make a name for himself in an industry that appears to suffering a slow death of its own. One cannot blame David Fahrenthold for moving on, following in the wake of Anita Huslin, Peter Whoriskey, and so many other Washington Post reporters who once covered the Bay.

As the EPA’s TMDL process unfolds, Bay Country desperately needs experienced journalists to explain the stakes to the general public. Make no mistake, the industry leaders who oppose the process, and there are plenty of them, will get the news. They will get it from their paid lobbysts and allies in government. But as for you and me, we need people like Fahrenthold. The process needs people like Fahrenthold. Thank you for the news Dave, and send reinforcements–quickly.

Howard Ernst is a political science professor and author of two books about Chesapeake Bay restoration. You can learn more about Dr. Ernst at his website (www.howardernst.com). The views expressed in this entry are the authors alone and not the official position of his employer or any group.


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