Baltimore 'Sun' Reassigns State House Bureau Chief

By: Joe Strupp The statehouse bureau chief for The Sun of Baltimore -- one of two Sun writers whom Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich barred state employees from speaking to -- has been reassigned away from the state capitol and into a new position, Editor Tim Franklin told E&P Friday.

Beginning next week, David Nitkin, a six-year Sun employee who has headed the statehouse bureau for three years, will become Maryland political editor -- a post that will combine oversight of political coverage with reporting on some issues.

While Franklin said the reassignment of Nitkin out of the paper's Annapolis bureau and into the main Baltimore newsroom will make it easier to cover the governor's administration, he stressed that the move is not a reaction to the ban that has sparked difficulties since it went into effect in late November.

"David knows more about state government than just about anyone in the state," Franklin told E&P. "The primary factor was that we needed somebody in that [political editor] role. This does get him out of what is, day in and day out, a bad situation. That is a benefit of this."

Nitkin is on vacation and could not be reached for comment Friday. Ehrlich's press office had no immediate comment on the reassignment.

The statehouse bureau is staffed by two people year-round, with another two added during the state legislative session, Franklin said. He said a new bureau chief would be appointed, but no one had yet been chosen.

"This would have happened regardless of the ban," Franklin said about Nitkin's new job. "But there is an ancillary benefit. Certainly, we won't have one of our statehouse reporters need to have someone else make phone calls for him. It will be more efficient."

Ehrlich's ban against Nitkin and columnist Michael Olesker went into effect in November. The Sun sued the governor earlier this year seeking to have the ban lifted, but that suit was dismissed. The paper has filed an appeal, which is pending.

One month after the ban was instituted, Ehrlich's office met with Sun editors and submitted a list of 23 journalistic errors alleged to have been committed by the paper in its coverage of the Ehrlich administration. On Thursday, Sun Public Editor Paul Moore wrote a lengthy column addressing each complaint, finding merit in only three.

An Ehrlich spokeswoman responded with a sharp criticism of the review, calling it "the fox guarding the hen house."

Franklin said Nitkin will continue to have some indirect involvement with Ehrlich's office as political editor, as he will oversee political coverage that will include the governor's likely run for re-election next year. "I think it is a good fit for the newspaper," Franklin reiterated. "As well as a good solution for what is happening."


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