David Wright, retired director of the Southern Maryland Criminal Justice Academy revised his review of THE STORY OF THE RAG on Amazon and provided this copy:
I recently re-read this book again and enjoyed it as much as the 1st time I read it. I lived in So. Md. working as a Police Officer of the Charles County Sheriff’s Office for 25 years retiring as a Lt. During that time I watched “St. Mary’s Today” (known locally as “THE RAG”) started from scratch as a once a week newspaper printed in the tabloid style, which is so easy to hold and read. It’s owner, publisher, editor, reporter, photographer, layout man and distributor, Ken Rossignol did it all as he slowly built his sales and adding other reporters, photographers and office help that were all dedicated to making this newspaper the “people’s newspaper of So. Md.”, which they accomplished.
Few self-respecting law enforcement officers of any of the So. Md. agencies would admit to reading this paper because it so often, writing in brutal honesty and the common words that awaken most citizens (as Mr. Trump has done today) and exposing poor investigations, reports and actions of US (the police)! But those, hated stories, made each of us better, more professional police officers and that produced cases that stood up in courts and their appeal process, though many didn’t recognize that. But “The Rag” was fair and also pointed out the good things we did and was actually pro-police and pro-every thing that is good for the citizen and their government. The paper was tenacious and dug far deeper behind the scenes exposing the “Good Ole Boys” back room deals so often found down in the Mother County of Maryland in those days. Though denying reading, much less purchasing, “The Rag”, on the days it was published I never saw an officer who couldn’t discuss in detail most of the articles exposing the “back room deals”, crooked politicians, bad or poor policing in the squad room at shift change. Those who didn’t covertly purchase a copy, acquired one by watching the trash cans around headquarters and extracting a discarded copy to read. It was a MUST read paper for all the power figures and government employees of the 3 So.Md. counties, even if to just make sure your name wasn’t mentioned in a story!
Through those years, I got to slowly know it’s “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” Ken Rossignol. Often he showed up on serious injury motor vehicle accidents, especially those with deaths and early on, in all honestly, I treated him as an adversary and ordered him to stand far away from “my scene”! Never once did he complain. So over time, with confidence in my own actions, I loosened up and gave him the normal freedoms extended to the press. No formal discussion, just a mutual understanding of boundaries that had to be respected. This eventually led to a tentative friendship and on to one that has stood the test of time.
The “Story of The Rag” is a compilation of who was who, who did what, the backroom deals and politics of old time So. Md. that are so entertainingly revealed in this book. They really did happen, just as they happened across our nation at various times and ways.
But the single most story in the book was an event that is enshrined in the teaching of News Media courses of every major college and university in our nation as well as every reporter, editor, publisher and attorney of every publication in our great country.
It resulted in a landmark decision by our US Supreme Court! A Sheriff and States Attorney running re-election got wind of a story exposing and old criminal sex charge with statements by the victim about the, then young, States Attorney that had been concealed and sealed from the public for years. The Sheriff was too heavily committed in this election running as a team with this States Attorney, and both had strong opponents running against them. Such a story had the very strong potential to turn the razor-close race against them to the defeat of both. So a plan was hatched between them, with a group of off-duty deputies doing the leg work, to buy up every edition in the wee hours of that election morning so no one could read the story. So off-duty, in civilian clothes (though several forgot to hide their badges and all were recognized as local Deputies) they spread out going into every convenience store, or place where “The Rag” was sold. Using money provided by the Sheriff and candidate for States Attorney, they literally bought every single edition at each store. When some cashiers objected they quickly were intimidated into allowing the sale to be completed. Every newspaper sales box was also emptied (though payment was made for each paper, all to suppress the political story that would have, most likely, have turned the election from victory to defeat. The Sheriff and States Attorney were re-elected and the group celebrated their coup!
But “The Rag” quickly discovered what had happened, who had did what and in its next edition exposed the whole story for all to read. AND they filed suit in court. The plaintiff’s, the Sheriff and States Attorney chuckled privately and laughed publicly but as this case wound its way into the Federal Courts and a series of defeats with an occasional win they grew more worried.
Ben Bradlee the internationally known, and respected, editor of the Washington Post, and friend and mentor of Ken, introduced a renown defender of issues of the press. Levine Sullivan Koch & Schultz took up the case of the Rag in the Federal Courts and, in an earth-shattering final victory at the Fourth Circuit United States Court of Appeals, (Rossignol v. Voorhaar 2003) upheld by the US Supreme Court, established a Landmark decision as to the “FREEDOM OF THE PRESS” and “DISTRIBUTION OF THE NEWS!” A decision that, though few know or recognize, protects every citizen’s “right to know” what their elected officials or other figures of government (huge or tiny) do, how they do it and who benefits from it.
The book is a true story of a modern day David fighting the Giant simply for the right to write, publish and distribute the news! I re-read the book and rewrote my review as today I see a news media that is heavily biased. A news media that prints story’s not as news, but attempts to mold the story to favor who “they like” and attack those “they don’t like”!
With the big-city news operations kissing Maryland Governor Parris Glendenning’s butt, it was up to ST. MARY’S TODAY to break the news that the Governor was conducting an affair involving travel around the world with his deputy chief of staff. Soon the Governor’s wife dumped him and the Guv married his mistress.
No matter your party one need only look in a dispassionate manner at our current presidential campaigns and how they are being reported to see it happening. Where are the Ben Bradlee’s and Ken Rossignol’s now? Where is the news media (TV or Print) with the courage to stand up and tell the truth? And YES! This book disproves the famous movie line delivered by Jack Nicholson “YOU CAN’T STAND THE TRUTH!” WE CAN!
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