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Media Circus

What’s in a Name?

By Gadi Dechter | Posted 8/10/2005

“He is known as ‘Dr. Baltimore.’ She’s the ‘Little Giant.’”

At least according to the Associated Press, which led a July 31 story about Maryland’s 3rd District congressional race with those words.

That they’re known by these nicknames might be news to the candidates.

AP reporter Alex Dominguez wrote the profile of dueling Democratic office-seekers—Dr. Peter Beilenson, formerly Baltimore City’s health commissioner, and state Sen. Paula Hollinger, who represents the 11th District in northwest Baltimore County—which arrived with the WWE-worthy headline “‘Dr. Baltimore’ vs. the ‘Little Giant’ in congressional showdown.”

Nicknames are a staple of Maryland politics, from diminutives like “Babs” Mikulski and “Willie Don” Schaefer to pet names like “Pifflesniff” Parris Glendening. Sometimes an appellation is an outright epithet, as in the case of Ellen “Sour Grapes” Sauerbrey.

Mean or nice, nicknames are usually traceable to roots more organic than press releases and copy editors.

Though reporter Dominguez insists that Peter Beilenson “has been known as ‘Dr. Baltimore’ in the media for a while,” the only published reference appears to be a 2000 Sun profile by Michael Ollove, headlined “Dr. Baltimore.”

“I don’t ever recall him being called ‘Dr. Baltimore’ when I was working on the story, and I don’t recall it after I wrote the story, either,” says Ollove, who didn’t write the headline.

Actually, Beilenson says he does occasionally hear the tag tossed around, “but only when people say it sort of facetiously because of the [Sun] article.”

As for Hollinger, “Little Giant,” is a 3-week-old invention of campaign volunteer Susan O’Brien, who referred to the 4-foot-9 candidate as “Maryland’s Little Giant” in a July 13 press release.

“You know how some people are terrified of Chihuahuas? Well, we just wanted to capture that feeling,” O’Brien explains. “Even though she’s this little thing, she’s really powerful.” O’Brien says she was pleasantly surprised that the AP picked up on her sobriquet but says that it won’t play a strategic role in the campaign.

“We’re not gonna go around saying, ‘Look, the Little Giant’s here,’ or ‘Vote for the Little Giant,’” O’Brien says, pointing out that Hollinger has managed to survive 26 years in the state legislature without the benefit of a nickname.

And though he doesn’t mind when friends and colleagues call him by his initials, P.B., Beilenson says he has no plans to revive his childhood nickname, “Peanut Butter.”

Office Space

The lead feature story in Baltimore magazine’s current “Best of Baltimore” issue is a profile of Harbor East, a 13-structure, mixed-use waterfront development between the Inner Harbor and Fells Point.

The 4,000-word article by Chris Iseli includes largely flattering portrayals of the project and the people behind it, including H&S Bakery mogul John Paterakis and developer C. William Struever.

It doesn’t mention that Baltimore, which rents office space at 1000 Lancaster St., is also a longtime tenant of the development.

In addition to being the magazine’s landlord, Harbor East is a significant advertiser. The August issue includes several full-page ads touting the development and its retail tenants, including the Gaines McHale antiques showroom and Whole Foods Market.

The code of ethics of the American Society of Magazine Editors recommends that editors avoid perceived conflicts of interest, “and at the very least, fully disclose to your readers any conflicts that could raise questions about your editorial independence.”

“Should it have been mentioned?” says Baltimore assistant managing editor Geoff Brown, who oversaw the story. “It might be worth a discussion, but I’m not losing sleep over it.”

Brown says that the magazine’s business relationship with Harbor East never came up in conversation during the year he and Iseli worked on the piece, and that there is a strict “church and state” separation at the monthly publication between editorial and advertising.

“I wouldn’t have had a problem with including a disclosure,” Iseli says, but it was never suggested to him. The freelance writer and former City Paper intern says he wasn’t directed to produce a favorable profile, and that he was surprised that even community activists who had bitterly opposed the project’s first leg—the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel—have since mellowed their criticism.

“I certainly didn’t go into it with any particular point of view with regard to Harbor East,” Iseli says. “Nor was there any suggestion that I should.”

Quack Conspiracy

Howard Rosenberg of Arlington, Va., wrote to Media Circus last week to announce a “censorship-like beef” with The Sun. Apparently, book editor Mike Ollove (of “Dr. Baltimore” fame, above) has elected to overlook coverage of Rosenberg’s recently self-published history of baseball shenanigans, Cap Anson 3.

After scouring past issues of the newspaper, Rosenberg thinks he’s figured out why: The Sun is afraid of the truth.

Buried in the back of Rosenberg’s dense, 472-page baseball history is a refutation of a cherished Baltimore creation myth: that duckpin bowling originated in a North Howard Street bowling alley in 1900. Not so, according to the baseball historian, who cites an 1894 reference in the Lowell (Massachusetts) Sun to “duck pin” bowling, suggesting that the use of small pins, called “ducks,” originated earlier and elsewhere.

Given that The Sun is guilty (as is City Paper) of having perpetuated the apocryphal duckpin story—most recently in a January story by architecture critic Edward Gunts—directing readers to Rosenberg’s book of revelation might end up embarrassing Calvert Street, Rosenberg contends. Therefore the muzzling.

Book editor Ollove responds: “When his book was considered, the issue of the Sun’s history of coverage of duckpin bowling hadn’t crossed my mind. I don’t know anything about duckpin bowling and I didn’t know that we made any claims about duckpin bowling in Baltimore.”

The Sun may be comforted to know that the first paper to report the born-in-Baltimore duckpin fable, according to Rosenberg’s book, was The Washington Post in 1939.

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