An Open Letter to Maryland Matters Founding Editor Josh Kurtz

Dear Mr. Kurtz:

As a steadfast admirer of your journalistic prowess and a regular reader of Maryland Matters – an online media outlet that, in a delightful twist of irony, some Marylanders may occasionally mistake for a blog – I find myself compelled to engage in a bit of friendly banter over your recent musings on the nature of journalism and, more specifically, the place of some the so-called bloggers within its venerable ranks.

In your March 1 “Happy 7th Birthday to Maryland Matters” opinion piece, you offered some thoughts on the state of media, the Maryland bloggers blogging, and – by extension – the very fabric of our democracy.

While as sharp as ever, your commentary seemed to stumble into the age-old pitfall of gatekeeping inadvertently – that is, who gets to don the hallowed cloak of “journalist.”

So, let’s talk about it.

There’s Room for Everybody in Maryland’s Journalism Club 

In a recent and, let’s call it, “an intriguing turn of events,” I’ve come to recognize a unique flair of mine for, let’s say, occasionally amplifying my responses to sometimes contentious back-and-forths.

The DMV recently had VIP tickets to witness this trait in full swing.

Perhaps it’s the unique blend of my Irish-Italian heritage at play, or maybe my stoic disposition sometimes slips.

Alternatively, it could have been the timing of my 70 mg Vyvanse dose beginning to taper off just as I delved into your latest editorial musings.

But in the style of Dr. Seuss, Mr. Kurtz, in your latest column, you did decree:

Ryan Miner, a journalist?
A notion so silly; it cannot be.
Not in the past, not now, and never by me.
A journalist, no; it’s a fantasy!

Let me offer a couple of counterpoints in the spirit of the very discourse we all cherish.

A Miner Detail Then and Now

In your 7th-anniversary musings opinion piece, Mr. Kurtz, you’ve illuminated a critical truth and made me realize journalism is not a club with velvet ropes and an exclusive guest list.

I won’t stand here and justify A Miner Detail’s existence. I am steadfast in our mission and here to stay.

You ponder, “Why does anyone listen to these guys?”

The answer is straightforward: A Miner Detail offers compelling reasons to tune in, cultivating an audience that craves substance over surface – much like your own media outlet.

The Why Behind A Miner Detail

Since bursting onto Maryland’s political stage in 2015, A Miner Detail has been at the forefront of unearthing groundbreaking stories.

Our podcast has hosted hundreds of politicians and political candidates, engaging in deep dives on policy that resonate with our listeners.

Our audience gravitates towards us for an alternative perspective that thrives outside traditional media bounds, and our meticulously built and fiercely protected source network parallels yours, Mr. Kurtz.

Indeed, we’ve probably made waves with stories that have likely reshaped careers and public perceptions.

As an ol’ Western Maryland country boy, my foray into the political discourse wasn’t about mingling with Montgomery County’s elite or navigating Takoma Park’s social labyrinths.

My venture was born from a desire to shed light on local governance, starting with the Washington County Board of Education tumult.

A Miner Detail was born from cherished memories with my grandparents, Dick and Maureen, and Robert and Joyce, who wove the fabric of news reading and local event discussions into my upbringing, always ensuring I was part of the conversation.

This platform is a tribute to them, the architects of my passion for journalism and news.

My grandfathers have passed, and my grandmothers, now at Somerford Memory Care in Hagerstown, are no longer able to enjoy the newspapers due to their advancing cognitive decline.

Amid the chaos of a bustling household and a single mother stretched far too thin, my constant refuge was reading the news and engaging in discussions with my grandparents—a grounding tradition I’ve carried into adulthood that I’ve endeavored to pass on to my children.

Our Different Styles, But Equally Passionate 

Let it be known that I do not, have not, and will never compare myself to your journalist career.

You’re much older and wiser than me, Mr. Kurtz; you have decades of unmatched real-world experience.

I must reiterate that I have nothing but respect and admiration for you. You have been incredibly kind and decent to me when people kicked me in the teeth.

I will, however, point out that your journalist style seemingly basks in the glow of the do-no-harm – it’s the ‘both sides’ adulation at every turn.

And sometimes, that style annoys me.

I, somewhat of a pariah to the political party elite, am left to press my nose against the glass, looking in.

It’s a scenario that could quickly sour one’s spirit – yet it only deepens my resolve.

In this grand tapestry of information dissemination, where the lines between traditional journalism and its digital-age counterparts blur, I find solace in the knowledge that the value of our work does not hinge on the accolades we receive or the parties we’re invited to.

So, while I may no longer grace the halls of Montgomery County’s finest soirées alongside you, Mr. Kurtz, I’ll continue to wield my pen (or keyboard, as the case may be) with the same fervor and dedication to the truth as always.

In jest and in earnest, I tip my hat to you, Mr. Kurtz.

May your ass-kissing admirers never wane, and may we both continue to thrive in our respective corners of the media landscape, velvet ropes be damned.

Who Are The Arbiters of What’s News and What Isn’t News?

In Maryland Matters’ annual Valentine’s Day homage to Maryland’s “Who’s Who Among the Power Couples,” I can’t help but marvel at the spectacle, Mr. Kurtz.

It’s your insufferable tradition that, while dripping with elitism, seems to recommit itself to celebrating a particular circle of Maryland’s political elite under the guise of journalism.

Your yearly February 14 ritual, which might as well be dubbed “The Oscars of Annapolis’ Aristocracy,” begs the question: Is this what we consider newsworthy now?

After all, in your latest column, you made it known that Maryland Matters reports the news.

While A Miner Detail strives to unearth stories that resonate with Marylanders from all walks of life, it appears Maryland Matters finds its muse in the self-adulation of the state’s political echelons.

I’m genuinely curious, Mr. Kurtz, how does an article extolling the virtues of Maryland’s political elite, wrapped in the veneer of Valentine’s Day sentimentality, advance the public discourse or inform the electorate meaningfully?

This isn’t to downplay the charm of love amidst the political battleground; instead, it’s to highlight the stark contrast in our pursuits.

I confess: My keyboard has sometimes danced too closely with flattery, sketching overly gracious portraits of political figures like Peter Franchot and Larry Hogan.

In hindsight, those pieces were missteps.

Yet, it puzzles me why Maryland Matters appears to prostrate itself before the very figures it claims to scrutinize.

But, of course, there’s the delicate dance with those who hold the purse strings of your nonprofit venture.

If the measure of journalism is its service to the elite’s ego rather than the enlightenment of the public, then perhaps it’s time we reevaluate our definitions of “newsworthy.”

The Expanding Media Marketplace 

In Maryland, there’s a bustling marketplace of ideas – a raucous dinner party where everyone is invited, and yes, even the bloggers sometimes get seated at the little table in the corner where the grown-ups don’t have to hear the clickety-clackety of our keyboards and smartphones, especially when we’re publicly spatting one with another.

Your assertions are seemingly wrapped in the patina of journalistic purity; you seem to forget that our media landscape over the last ten years has evolved faster than most of us expected.

Social media, blogs, and other digital platforms have become the town squares of our time, where stories are broken, debates are had, and communities are built.

To discount these as mere whispers among the roar of traditional media is to miss the forest for the trees.

You know it, and I know it: Some 20-year-old eager kid with a quick wit, a keen understanding of the media landscape, and terrible taste in music will soon replace you and me with their TicTok version of news.

And you and I will sit on the second floor of Harry Browne’s and lament the fact that there’s no country for old men.

Here’s another example that I’m sure Maryland’s political establishment will loathe, but it’s nonetheless relevant.

Consider the provocative YouTuber Shaun Porter, a conservative Washington Countian who gained widespread notoriety in 2020 for traversing Maryland with profanity-laced 4 x 8 signs that brazenly critiqued politicians and public officials, all within his constitutional rights.

Say what you will about Mr. Porter – many have, yet he remains unfazed.

Since 2020, he’s crafted a YouTube channel into a powerhouse with over 134,000 followers, racking up millions of views weekly by spotlighting political follies and injustices.

You might bristle at Mr. Porter’s approach, but his sway with an audience craving news beyond the mainstream – the traditional media outlets, like yours, that I still support and read daily – cannot be ignored.

My Brief Time Spent in the Maryland State House Basement

Reflecting on my stint in the State House’s basement press room in the spring of 2019, where the air felt thick with tradition and skepticism towards newcomers, I couldn’t help but notice the palpable sense of belonging among the “true journalists” of the Annapolis Press Corp.

Annapolis Press Corp’s dean, Bryan Sears, a seasoned reporter and your recent savvy hire, frequently used Twitter (now X) to underscore my outsider status and the dire consequences he believes occur when I identify as a journalist.

That brief immersion in the press corps’ musty confines left me with more than just a lingering sense of alienation – apparently, seasonal allergies can also be a souvenir of time spent in that basement.

Yet, this experience and observation made me ponder the broader dynamics beyond the dust-covered desks.

You, Mr. Kurtz, and the esteemed corps navigate the unpredictable waters of public opinion – a formidable task.

However, I’ve observed a tendency towards caution, perhaps born from a desire not to upset Annapolis’s hallowed halls’ established order.

This careful approach, while understandable, sparks curiosity about its impact on journalistic integrity and the fearless pursuit of truth.

Does this cautiousness, aimed at preserving the comforts of the Annapolis insider club, inadvertently sideline the more unvarnished narratives that challenge the status quo?

It’s a question worth exploring, especially in an era where the boundaries of journalism are continually being redrawn.

The Essence of Journalism in 2024

Your delicate balancing act, Mr. Kutz, while admirable in its intent to maintain harmony within the gilded halls of power, raises questions about the essence of journalism itself.

As stewards of the fourth estate, are we to tread lightly for fear of ruffling feathers, or should we embrace the vicissitudes of public opinion as both a challenge and a duty to provoke thought, spur debate, and, when necessary, unsettle the comfortable?

In this era where the lines between journalist, blogger, and satirist blur into a mosaic of voices clamoring to be heard, let us not forget that our allegiance lies not with the fleeting approval of the elite but with the truth and those who seek it.

May we both find the courage to dance amidst the vicissitudes, not as cautious tightrope walkers, but as bold truth-seekers willing to shake the very foundations of the Annapolis insider club, should the dance so require.

Perhaps your truth – and your newfound mission – is preferring to gatekeep journalism’s ranks rather than understanding why readers are turning to us.

Challenging the Status Quo: A Call for Media Evolution

Mr. Kurtz, when was the last time Maryland Matters – esteemed as it is – truly captivated Maryland with hard-hitting investigative journalism that broke a significant political story?

At A Miner Detail, we pride ourselves on delivering content beyond merely regurgitating press releases.

Our commitment is to provide insightful analysis and original reporting that adds value to our readers’ understanding of the issues.

I know that you and your dogged crew of Maryland’s best political reporters strive for the same outcome.

An Olive Branch Extended To Mr. Kurtz & Others in the Maryland Media

And so, to you, Mr. Kurtz, and those who share your view, I extend an olive branch as an invitation: Let’s embrace the messy, vibrant, and ever-changing media world together.

After all, if we can’t recognize the value in all voices seeking to inform, entertain, and provoke thought, then perhaps we’re the ones who need to be brought up to speed.

In closing, I’ll continue to wield my keyboard to pursue stories that matter, armed with the unshakable belief that journalism wears many hats, some delightfully unconventional.

And to our readers, worry not: A Miner Detail will keep mining the depths of Maryland politics with the same gusto, wit, and journalistic integrity, regardless of what the name tag says.

Here’s to the endless pursuit of truth, one blog post, tweet, and satirical jab at a time.

With all due charm and charisma,

Ryan R. Miner, MBA
Editor, A Miner Detail