Editorial: There Can Never Be Enough Purple on the Mid-Shore in September


In the field of advertising, the old saying goes that it takes at least seven uniquely different exposures to a product before the consumer actually decides to purchase it. In the marketing of awareness and prevention of the opioid crisis, one should apply a multiplier effect of a 1,000 when the aim is to reach out to young people of the fatal consequences of a drug epidemic that killed 70,000 Americans last year.

Like other public health campaigns that have came before it, including such great successes as with the war against tobacco and AIDS, the strategy for drug awareness is simple; pound on the table as much as you can for as long as you can.

And that is the power and magic of the Purple project for the Mid-Shore this September.

Started last year in Talbot County by the Sheriff’s Office and the Tidewater Rotary with modest expectations, it turned out to be remarkably successful for reasons large and small as the community responded dramatically to “Talbot Goes Purple” through rallies, games, high school programs, and most importantly, the profoundly moving sight of entire towns lite up purple on almost every porch, storefront, street lamp, or dozens of other creative ways to show solidarity with oppied prevention.

As a result of this overwhelming response, Talbot Goes Purple became a model for other Mid-Shore counties to replicate, and it is profoundly moving that Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, and Queen Anne’s counties have formed community partnerships with their schools, businesses, and neighborhoods to join “Mid-Shore Goes Purple,” including the Spy, which will become, we hope, a portal for news and stories from the five different purple campaigns.

But how do we know all this purple in September is working? Is this the most effective way to reach potential users of opioids?

The answer is an unequivocal “yes,” at least from the perspective of someone who is on the battlefield; Talbot County Sheriff Joe Gamble. In his Spy interview to be broadcast today, Gamble points to data where deaths by overdoses have been reduced, and the number of those receiving police-administered Narcan treatment (and therefore should be counted as lives saved) has increased.

Statistics like these remain the final test for how a county on the Shore is succeeding or failing on a drug epidemic, but one can not overlook the collateral benefits that have come with Talbot Goes Purple. From the creation of group homes for recovering drug users, the widespread training in the use of the life-saving Narcan, or the creation of student awareness groups at local schools, these examples demonstrate that Talbot’s collective response to the crisis is serious and sustained.

Our region has a long way to go before we are out of harm’s way with this horrific danger. The opioid crisis will take years, perhaps more than a decade, to be totally defeated. In the meantime, there can never been enough purple in September on the Mid-Shore and the Spy is proud to turn that color.

For information on how to help, volunteer, or just where one can pick up a purple light bulb for their home, please go here

Editorial: The First Congressional District and Election 2018


When thinking about the Eastern Shore’s historical relationship with the 1st Congressional District of Maryland, it’s important to keep one thing in perspective. The Shore, until recently, had mostly been served by one of their own residents for more than 150 years. From the election of James Stewart from “Tobacco Stick” in Dorchester County in 1854 to the defeat of Frank Kratovil from Stevensville in 2010, the 1st was always considered to be an Eastern Shore seat.

And, for the most part, the Shore had taken that responsibility seriously by electing men (no woman has yet to serve) of strong moral fiber and, at times, real political courage.

From Cecil County’s abolitionist John Creswell in 1862 to Easton’s Harry Covington, the founder of Covington & Burling, former Secretary of the Interior Rogers Morton, and more recently, Kennedyville’s thoughtful and independent Republican Wayne Gilchrest, the Shore has a record of sending some of their very best and brightest to Washington.

But that all ended in 2010.

The moderate Democrat Kratovil could not survive the anti-Obama wave that election year. While Kratovil did not vote for the Affordable Care Act, a key issue in that election, GOP conservative Andy Harris was able to attract enough new voters from the far right, many of whom were motivated by such grassroots movements as the Tea Party, to win with 54% of the vote.

The 2010 loss was a big deal for the Eastern Shore beyond the loss of Queen Anne’s Frank Kratovil. It was also the year that a decennial census took place which would make up the data used to help Maryland draw new Congressional districts for the 2012 election year.

With Democrats holding both legislative houses and the Governor’s office in Annapolis, senior party leaders drew up new boundaries in Maryland that many critics felt were designed to secure more congressional seats in Congress for Democrats. By moving high concentrations of predictably Republican voters from Carroll, Baltimore, and Harford Counties into just one district, the theory went, the odds improve for the Democrats in the other districts.

And that one district happened to be the 1st Congressional District.

Now separated from the Shore’s historically-linked sister counties of St. Mary and Anne Arundel, the new 1st arches across the top of the Chesapeake and moves west while cutting into Carroll, Baltimore, and Harford Counties to guarantee this super-safe Republican seat.

While the courts are now reviewing the constitutionality of that new districting plan, by November 2012 the results were clear. Congressman Harris beat his Democratic opponent with now 70% of the vote, which eventually placed it on the Cook Political Report’s Partisan Voter Index as the 86th most reliable Republican district in the United States.

With that kind of outcome, Maryland GOP leaders would normally not worry too much about an upcoming mid-term election, but then Donald Trump became president.

The political maverick had accomplished what experts said was impossible in 2016 by defeating more than a dozen Republicans in GOP primaries and ultimately Hillary Clinton in the general election. With majorities of both the House, and now the Senate, the Trump mandate, however modest it was, based on an electoral college victory rather than the popular vote, was seen by the winners as a rallying cry for significant social and economic change in Washington.

Some of that change has now taken place. The Trump administration has wasted little time in the dismantling of the EPA, cut thousands of regulations, provided significant corporate tax relief, introduced an “America First” foreign policy, and dozens of other actions, large and small, that cumulatively may add up to be the largest deconstruction of the federal government in our history.

If those changes turn out to be what the voters truly wanted, the Republicans would have much to crow about as they enter into the 2018 midterms, and that would include Congressman Harris.

But these policy victories have come with unprecedented collateral damage. Since taking office, the new president has used his bully pulpit to literally bully his opponents, foreign leaders, ethnic groups, a national war hero, and even celebrities through his Tweeter feed and in public appearances. He is also considered to be by most Americans, including members of his own party, highly capricious in judgment and lacking moral authority, while at the same time is the primary story of a federal investigation of 2018 campaign collusion and obstruction of justice. The fact that he is also being sued by two women he may have had affairs with would make even the most objective onlooker believe the President is a major liability in the fall election.

For Congressman Harris, this is especially problematic since he has not only been a steadfast defender of the President, his own moral compass was thrown into question when he endorsed Alabama’s Roy Moore for the U.S. Senate well after credible reports showed the former judge’s history of having intimate relationships with underaged girls.

With all that in mind, the Spy now believes that, despite the remarkable political engineering it took to guarantee a safe Republican 1st District, the projected outcome in November is hardly certain.

That is why the Spy will be taking a special interest in the 1st District throughout the rest of the year. Over the next six months, we will be profiling Democrats and Republicans from most of the counties that make up the 1st to understand these very different communities and the people that live in those communities.

We start today with our profile of Carroll County through the lens of the member of the Democratic Central Committee there. The following month will be an active Republican in another county. Our stakeholder interviews will alternate between the two parties until the election takes place.

While the Eastern Shore may never return to a time when their U.S. Congressperson is from the Eastern Shore, and we hope that is not the case, that will not limit the Shore’s real interest in the 2018 election. We can only hope that our Spy coverage will only help further a thoughtful and civil conversation about how it will be represented in the future.


Publisher Notes: Please Chip in for the Spy this Month


Precisely nine years ago this month, the Chestertown Spy began its life as an online news source for a town I had fallen in love with as an undergraduate at Washington College in 1974.  The premise was simple enough. By using the extraordinary tools that the internet could provide such as multimedia articles, easy reader access, and relatively low-cost startup, the Spy could be a powerful and useful complement to a legacy weekly newspaper of record.

The business plan was just as simple. Generate enough revenue to cover these costs and provide modest stipends for the Spy’s editors and writers.  There was no vision for media domination or commercializing the “product” to monetize investment. The payback would come with a community well informed and respectful of diverse opinion.

Nor was there any guarantee of success. While I had known Chestertown as both a college student and later as a Washington College vice president in the 1980s, it was hard to predict if this would be considered value-added for a community that prided itself on not being an early adapter to most things.

Nine years later, the Chestertown Spy has 15,000 readers a month, reading it on average five times a month. It has attracted over 200 sponsors and has been able to pay its editors and writers the small stipends they richly deserve.

More importantly, the Spy has been able to remain faithful to its mission and aspirations. With 2,000 educational video programs produced, over 10,000 original content articles published, 1,500 local opinion pieces posted, and 15,000 vetted reader comments approved,

With the increased awareness that the Spy was indeed a community asset worthy of philanthropic support, I made arrangements with the Mid-Shore Community Foundation to become the Spy’s fiscal partner, allowing us to receive funding from private foundations as a non-profit entity starting in 2013.

All of these ingredients have worked together to keep the Spy afloat over these nine years, but the reality is we, like every nonprofit organization, must seek a highly diverse revenue flow, must now ask you, our gentle reader, to chip in as well.

For the balance of March, the Spy will not be shy about asking for this support. Taking a page out of the playbook of other fundraising programs online, we will have a “pop-up” appear for a few moments to beg the question of a modest monthly contribution or one-time donation to keep the Spy going.

I hope, with your help, the Spy can continue to serve Chestertown for many decades to come with your help.

Please make your contribution here.

Dave Wheelan

Editorial: Rest in Peace, but Not in Spirit, Colchester Farm


The Chestertown Spy has, regrettably, had to write a fair number of obituaries of local businesses who have decided to shut their doors since we started this publication. From beloved bookstores to favorite restaurants, we have grieved along with our readers over the loss of not only local commerce but local culture.

While some of these endings were the result of an unanticipated economic recession, there were ample examples of proprietors deciding in the later years of their lives to quietly retire. Nonetheless, the consequences of these lost businesses correspond with the experience of grief; a sense of loss, a sense of anger, a sense of losing what we feel is so vital for our identity and our community.

With all that in mind, it was extraordinarily painful the other day to make note here that the Colchester Farm CSA would be closing their operation by the end of the year.

From the earliest moments of the Spy, we have celebrated and continuously endorsed the importance of community supported agriculture. And while there remains a number of great CSAs on the Delmarva, the local personal loss of Colchester is a particularly painful one for the Spy.

Starting with our early partnership with the CSA in bringing to Chestertown the transformational documentary, Food Inc in 2009,  and shortly followed by one of our first videos on its operation, there has always been the greatest respect for its staff, volunteers and board members as well as very special affection for farm owner and visionary Charlotte Staelin, who started this grand experiment in 2003.

Our community is particularly indebted to the long-term tenure of Colchester’s agricultural master and farm manager Theresa Mycek who has been faithful to the Farm’s distinctive mission. A familiar face at the Chestertown Farmers Market whose unassuming ways masked an extraordinary work ethic and passion for locally produced food. It is of some small comfort that she will continue her farming practice on the Mid-Shore.

Unlike other startups, a CSA must depend on a certain amount of sheer human horsepower to ensure that the mission of the organization is successful. That meant in most cases that Teresa and her crew were in the fields in the early morning and would eventually retire at sundown for the vast majority of days of any given year. They did this not because there was a career track, a good health insurance, or pension program, but to prove that a CSA can provide an alternative model of farming that strengthens the relationship between farmers, community members, food, and the land.

And they were so right about that.

Even with the end of the Colchester Farm CSA experiment, the Spy remains optimistic that aspiring local farmers can find a sustainable business model in providing essential fresh and healthy produce to its immediate community. If they succeed, they might want to give Colchester some credit as being the first in Kent County to try and find that pathway.

Editorial: A Few Suggestions for Washington College’s New President


Sometime this week, perhaps through a board memorandum or a campus-wide email, Washington College will install Kurt Landgraf as its new president. For a small college, and this tiny town, that is a big deal since it has only happened twenty-nine times since 1782.

And since it is such a rare occurrence, the Chestertown Spy has made it a habit of welcoming WC’s leaders on our editorial page since the first Spy began publication in the 1790s. That tradition continues here.

As an observer of Washington College and its presidents, the Spy has always had a high degree of respect, admiration, and more than a little sympathy for those that take on this line of work. It is no secret that being a president of a small college in today’s world is perhaps one of the most challenging jobs one can have, not only in higher education but any profession. Budgets are tight, expenses are high, student recruitment competitive, and fundraising goals aspirational, while trustees, faculty members, and alumni continue to have their own enormous expectations. This list goes on.

Given all that, it is truly remarkable there is so little done in the way of training for those rising to this level of academic leadership. In fact, except for some crash courses offered by places like Harvard, and perfunctory meetings with board members and senior administrators, new college presidents are responsible for their own orientation.

Given these limitations, the Spy, fondly devoted to Washington College, wants to help the new president climb the learning curve with a few suggestions beyond the standard, and often repeated, mantra that every president needs a “vision.” Here are some points, some ideas, for any new president to keep in mind, and – since it’s a college – some suggested supplementary reading from both the Spy and other sources.

1) Honor institutional memory: Washington College’s revolutionary position in higher education always seems to get lost in the College’s public relations push to promote the role George Washington played in the College’s creation. The Washington connection is a great story to tell, and all of WC’s presidents have fully embraced this narrative, even to the point where one president had been so limited in his knowledge  that he spent the first six months of his tenure incorrectly telling audiences that Washington had been the “founder” of the institution. That kind of fake history helps neither the school or its students.

But more importantly, the other story, the one in which Washington College’s creation fundamentally changed the role of higher education when it opened its doors in 1782, gets lost in all the hype. The Spy’s interview with WC’s retired professor Colin Dickson for a delightful discussion of William Smith and the College’s early years.

2) The Town and the College are intertwined: There has always been an active, if the not particularly valuable, debate in Chestertown on whether it is a “town with a college” or a “college town.” It doesn’t matter. It is only important for a new college president to know that this community and Washington College are irretrievably intertwined economically, intellectually, culturally, and physically. Rather than face an uncertain future separately, WC and Chestertown must work together in a serious and strategically meaningful way to remain relevant. The Spy most recently addressed this special relationship in an editorial a few months ago.

3) Choose scholarships over campus amenities: One of the most unforgivable sins in higher education these days is that a college’s endowment does not determine its commitment to economic diversity among its students. Case in point, Bowdoin College in Maine, with an endowment of almost $1.4 billion, only provides scholarship support to 45% of its students, but consistently wins the “best dormitory food” category in higher education by investing loads of money into that area. Washington College, on the other hand, supports about 60% of its students using its relatively modest endowment of $200 million. While there is always the temptation to keep up with the “Joneses” to improve recruitment of students who can pay $60,000 a year for that high end buffet at Bowdoin,  President Landgarf and others would profit from  journalist Malcolm Gladwell’s work last year that documents this moral conundrum.

4) Manage expectations: The dream of every college president is to have a “transformational” gift during their tenure which can catapult their school to a much higher orbit in ranking and prestige through the generosity of a $100 million-plus donation. The good news is that these gifts do sometimes happen (WC alum Betty Casey are you listening?) but not often. It is more often the case that a college president has to devote a decade or more to better position their school. Be realistic in your goals until that rare transformational moment takes place.

5) It’s ok to preach: At the end of the day, colleges need leaders, not administrators. While some may now consider the job as the “fundraiser in chief,” in reality the students and most faculty want a college president to use their bully pulpit to connect the dots between the issues of the day and the importance of critical thinking, moral judgment, and citizenship. While this suggestion might have seemed redundant a few decades ago, nowadays college presidents are taking on a corporate CEO model where commentary from on top might jeopardize the value of the “brand.”

6) Find your inner poet to lead: While it is true that students and parents demand higher “returns on investment” for their $100,000 plus tuition fees, in reality, they need and want a liberal arts experience. The fusion of the humanities with such things as “business management” is the essential differential between vocational education and the limitless capacity for knowledge and experience that comes with a small residential college.

Joseph McLain, an internationally recognized chemist before he became WC’s president in the 1970s, insisted on holding weekly poetry recitals with students to drive home his conviction that science and the humanities must learn from each other. President Landgraf must find his own way to demonstrate his commitment to this ideal.

7). Enjoy the job and the town: As the Spy has noted before, surveys of new college presidents have found an overwhelming percentage either disliked or hated their jobs after their first year in office. There might be good reasons for that, given the enormous pressure placed upon these individuals, but the odds are that those who hate their job, regardless of their station in life, rarely perform well. One way to do that is to follow the first six points outlined here, but also fall in love with Chestertown and its people.

Editorial: The Departures of College Presidents Sheila Bair and Barbara Viniar


Just as with friends getting divorced, when colleges separate from their presidents there is that familiar feeling of sadness as well as the usually unanswered question as to why it had to come to “this.”

“They seemed like the perfect couple, or “what a terrific team,” or, better yet, “they were made for each other, what happened?” The phrases that come to mind when everyone’s favorite couple announces they are getting a divorce seem no different than when a school’s board of directors sends out press releases that their current CEO has abruptly resigned.

And that seems to have been the case with the recent announcements by the Boards of Chesapeake College and Washington College that their current presidents, Barbara Viniar and Sheila Bair, both of whom had records of significant accomplishments, would be leaving their posts under less than clear circumstances.

The general public, just like friends of divorcing couples, is not in a position to seek clarification for these quick changes. Just like in observing a marriage from afar, they are not privy to the kind of private conflicts, misunderstandings, or simple incompatibility that college presidents may or may not have had with their governing boards. The community at large is left to mind their own “beeswax” having neither the authority, nor the position, to press for better answers.

The Spy finds itself in a similar position. We are not in the business to speculate or second-guess volunteer boards on managing these local institutions of higher education unless there is evidence of malfeasance which, to our knowledge, does not seem to be the case with in these two cases.

But that does not preclude us from saying that both of these women demonstrated a love of their institutions that achieved great and significant improvements in how their schools pursued their mission.

Barbara Viniar’s ten years at Chesapeake College almost perfectly paralleled the remarkable sea change in community college education throughout the country. And during that time, Dr. Viniar held firm in her conviction that through innovation and curriculum reform, Chesapeake College could navigate through the pitfalls of funding shortages and political conflicts to become all the more useful and relevant to the communities it serves. She should take pride that she has left the community college in Wye Mills stronger and more vibrant as a result of her leadership.

And while Sheila Bair at Washington College did not enjoy the same lengthy tenure as Dr. Viniar had, it was stunning for many observers, including the media, how quickly she was able to define the mission of the College to include an intensely public campaign to reduce student debt. She also instantaneously became the primary national advocate in shedding light on the precarious subprime educational loan market, earning her well-deserved coverage in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

It is these records of accomplishment that make these transitions painful to hear. But it also a reminder of how extremely difficult being a college president is these days. Beyond the usual tensions that come with faculty demands, alumni grievances, and high board expectations, college leaders must operate will fewer resources, tighter regulations, and new performance metrics based on “return on investment” calculations. In short, these are really hard jobs.

As the Mid-Shore awaits news of their successors for both schools, it behooves us all to acknowledge the personal leadership offered by these impressive women. They both should feel a sense of accomplishment as they move on to their next role.

We wish them well and with our gratitude.






Editorial: The Future of Chestertown and Its College Needs Your Attention


For a variety of very good reasons, Washington College has made it a point to ensure that all prospective students, and their parents, are keenly aware that George Washington very deliberately allowed the College of Chester to be named after him, and backed that up with the largest personal donation to get the school off the ground.

And at the same time, the College rightly hammers home the exceptional fact that the man who convinced Washington to do so, the Very Rev’d William Smith, perhaps the most distinguished academic leader in the New World at the time, was the gifted visionary who created the college after his remarkable collaboration with Benjamin Franklin in starting what is now known as the University of Pennsylvania.

It is hard to imagine a more impressive beginning for any school, and yet what gets lost in this very accurate narrative is the fact that the town of Chestertown was the entity that founded the 10th oldest college in America. While Washington and Smith were the unique ingredients that made Washington College what it is, it was its citizens of the Mid-Shore that asked for it to be created in the first place.

Unlike almost every other private liberal arts college in the country, WC was not the result of a wealthy patron, a religious order, or a state government but a town that wanted a college. And it was this community that made the unprecedented decision to start the first independent and secular college of a new nation. (1)

In fact, Kent County was already a leader in education at the time with the formation of the Kent County School, which was so well established that in 1742, the headmaster, Charles Peale, none other than the father of the renowned painter Charles Willson Peale, submitted the following advertisement seeking students:

Kent County School in Chestertown Maryland is where young gentleman are bordered and taught the Greek and Latin tongues, writing, arithmetic, merchants accounts, surveying, navigation, the use of the globes, by the largest and most accurate pair in America.

The genesis of a college started in 1780 when town leaders, with such local names like Barroll, Paca, Piper, Sewall, Wickes, and Wilmer, recruited Smith to develop the curriculum, hire professors, and fundraise for the project. Smith did this with exceptional skill. In total, almost three hundred residents on the Eastern Shore donated to start the school and build its first classroom building in what would be the third largest in the new world.

The take-home message from all this is that from its very beginning, Washington College has been intimately intertwined with the town that created it. And because of this extraordinary heritage, there has always been an acute and lasting interest in how the school operates and functions even as the governance and financial ties between the town and the college have long separated.

And over those 235 years, Washington College and Chestertown have collectively felt the good and bad times in unison. From the thrill of having scholars as neighbors and the sight of international luminaries walking on High Street to the devastation of campus fires and periodic downtown economic downturns, these two institutions have found creative ways to fortify each other during challenging times.

We are in one of those challenging times.

The town remains explicitly confronted with the harsh reality that large scale manufacturing and storefront retail, staples of Chestertown’s economy, will never return to the historically high levels of the past since both of these have radically been altered by offshore factories and the rise of web-based shopping.

And while the College remains strong in recruitment and academic achievement, virtually every rural liberal arts school in the country is now facing the painful reality of a dwindling pool of prospective students as a result of demographic shifts, a growing popularity of more urban campuses, and most disconcerting, the rising costs of education.

With sober forecasts predicting modest economic growth rates and a shrinking number of college-bound students for the foreseeable future, both the town and college will undoubtedly feel the stress of this precarious environment, particularly at a time when both institutions seek major infrastructure improvements to attract visitors, entrepreneurs, and a new freshman class.

It would seem reasonable, perhaps even obvious, that the best course of action is for these historically linked entities to work strategically together to advance each other’s mission. And for many years now, leaders of both have demonstrated at least an intellectual agreement with that concept, but it is the “how” part that continues to trip up plans for sophisticated collaborative strategies and mutually supported projects like the waterfront, downtown revitalization (hotel), and North Chestertown’s development.

That “how” part is not an easy one. For many years now, initiatives have begun and ended, strategic planning gets started but then proposed, and just a few years ago, a blue-ribbon town-gown task force had to be suddenly abandoned due to a stunning error in administrative oversight and the overzealous and premature use of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of a local reporter.

And yet even with these extraordinary setbacks, it is the Spy’s contention that Chestertown and Washington College still has the motivation, the leadership, and the emotional bonds to find a constructive and meaningful way forward in the years and decades ahead.

That is why the Chestertown Spy will be moderating an unprecedented public forum on April 11 with Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino and Washington College President Sheila Bair to share with the community their current strategic plans and discuss how those plans can be strengthened through collaboration. It also is a time for community residents to share with these two leaders their own ideas and dreams for a new vision of what this college town, or, if you prefer, a town with a college, can look like in the 21st Century.

It is unlikely that one meeting will have any direct impact on long-term solutions, but it is a start in getting these two important parts of our community starting to act as a family rather than respectful if slightly distant neighbors.

We welcome your participation that evening.



The Future of Chestertown and Washington College Forum will be held on April 11 at 5 pm at the Decker Theatre on the campus of Washington College.

(1) Although other institutions claim founding dates between 1770 and 1781, none possessed college charters or were empowered to grant degrees, and most were merely “log-cabin grammar schools” that evolved much later into full-fledged colleges, according to the authoritative book on the subject, Donald G. Tewksbury’s The Founding of American Colleges and Universities Before the Civil War (Columbia University Press, 1932). Tewksbury accorded Washington College standing as the nation’s tenth-oldest institution of higher learning, directly after the renowned “Colonial Nine.”

Editorial: The Serious Threat of Fake News


As our more observant readers noticed today, the Spy has run our annual fake news story in honor of April Fools’ Day with the announcement that the Eastern Shore will have its own rapid transit system next year. We have also enlisted columnist Howard Freedlander into this fictional project with his reporting that Annapolis is moving ahead with a tunnel from the Bay Bridge toll center to Claiborne to connect with the new system. We hope these two breaking news stories will be enjoyed as much by the Mid-Shore region as it has been for the Spy team to produce.

April Fools Day has always been a cherished tradition at the Spy. From our announcement last year that Trump International was constructing a luxury twenty-four story apartment building in Claiborne to the Town of Chestertown accepting responsibility of Binny, an orphaned giraffe, in exchange for funding the town’s Marina on the Chester, The Spy writers allow this field day of imagination to test readers aptitude in depend on their judgment of what is true or false, no matter how crafty our art director is with photoshop

We are also glad that this unofficial national holiday comes only once a year, since the Spy, like any responsible publication, depends on the community’s trust to fulfill our mission as an important educational news source for the Mid-Shore. While it is always tempting to take poetic license during the rest of the year, our desire to maintain our reputation for credibility will always trump our enjoyment of irony or mischief.

Sadly, we are living in a culture where an increasingly large number of independent media sources have turned April Fools Day into a daily occurrence. The production of fake news, from every end of the political spectrum, has invaded our daily consumption of information. And the results of which has been devastating.

In the last year alone, fake news impacted a presidential election, caused a gun assault at a family pizza restaurant in DC, and has sent the United States Congress into endless and costly investigations using false news reports on such topics as Benghazi or presidential wiretapping.

It is particularly hard to imagine that this harmful practice will end anytime soon but that doesn’t necessarily mean it must remain such a potent force in our culture. But it does require that citizens, the country’s consumers of news, become increasingly become more vigilant in relying on their good judgment and common sense rather than accept at face value what they find on the internet.

Publisher Notes: The Spy, President Trump, and David Montgomery


Perhaps it overstates the obvious that there is no good owner’s manual on how a small community newspaper, dedicated to public education, can reasonably and constructively cover this unprecedented time with the advent of Donald Trump as President of the United States. Traditional schools of political thoughts, such as liberal and conservative ideology, have become blurred as the country’s new leader swings comfortably between multiple think camps with a very idiosyncratic approach to policy formation.

One consequence of this new Trump reality is that news sources, even ones like the small nonpartisan and nonprofit Spy, have become increasingly susceptible to charges of bias on how they have presented the dynamic, and sometimes nerve-rattling, repercussions of policy shifts coming from the new administration.

David Montgomery

David Montgomery

While the Spy has not lost much sleep from the few cases where readers have found fault with how we present the news, the Trump presidency does indeed offer unique challenges in fulfilling our mission in providing a diverse and safe harbor for community commentary.

A case in point has been our efforts for different points of view with our columnists. Since we started the Spy in 2009, we have intentionally sought out writers of all political persuasions to write authoritatively on public policy. Many of those columnists have come from the highest levels of public service with previous Democratic and Republican state and federal administrations, and as a group, at least in “normal times,” would be considered a wide and healthy spectrum of opinion.

But the Trump years, no matter where one stands on the issues, will not be “normal times.” And as a consequence, several of our writers who may be steadfast supporters of the “center-right” policies have philosophically or politically separated themselves from Trump policies or leadership approach.

While it is safe to say that Spy columnists can take any position they care to, as the Spy publisher and executive editor, it was incumbent for me to close this gap in our point of view section (P.O.V.), and I am therefore very pleased to announce that Spy friend and highly respected economist David Montgomery has agreed to help.

While David is not affiliated with the new administration, and may at times be critical of Trump policies, the Spy is very fortunate to have someone of David’s exceptional background discuss and intellectually analyze the ideas and policies of the new president on a frequent basis. He starts in today’s edition.

David, now retired, was formerly Senior Vice President of NERA Economic Consulting. He also served as assistant director of the US Congressional Budget Office and deputy assistant secretary for policy in the US Department of Energy. He has taught economics at the California Institute of Technology and Stanford University and was a senior fellow at Resources for the Future.

A Fulbright scholar at Cambridge University, and also earning a doctorate from Harvard, David has been a gifted advocate for the power of free markets and smaller governments. Given credit for developing the successful economic theorem which produced “cap and trade” emissions to protect California’s air in the late 1970s, as well as a writer on Catholic theology, it is particularly rewarding to have someone of David’s caliber sharing with our readers his thoughtful take on world events.

Dave Wheelan
Publisher & Executive Editor

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