Photo via Gov. Larry Hogan/Twitter

For a few hours on Tuesday, a story by the Baltimore Sun ran with a different and not entirely true headline on Gov. Larry Hogan’s Facebook page.

Last night, a staffer in the governor’s office altered the headline of a story about an existing transportation funding law, one that Gov. Hogan does not like, to give it a bit more pizzazz. One significant problem: the headline wasn’t entirely accurate.

The headline for the story from Monday on the Sun’s website reads, “Maryland Senate committee crafts compromise on transportation scoring law.” The one posted to Hogan’s Facebook page read, “Maryland Senate Committee Approves Road Kill Repeal W/Amendments.”

To quickly explain, the story referred to a Senate vote on a change to the Maryland Open Transportation Investment Decision Act of 2016. The law requires the governor to ascribe numerical ratings to every planned transportation project for the year ahead and rank them publicly, so long as the state is spending more than $2 billion on such projects annually. Democrats crafted the legislation last year, saying it would increase transparency about how and why the state is picking transportation projects. They notably proposed the measure shortly after Hogan decided in 2015 to cancel the potentially transformative Red Line light rail project, which would have connected the east and west sides of Baltimore, to conserve money for projects on the state’s highways.

Hogan attempted to veto the measure last year after the General Assembly approved it, but legislators overrode him. He’s since rebranded it as the “road kill” law, arguing it will cancel major transportation projects across Maryland due to what he and other Republicans have labeled a flawed scoring system.

While lawmakers this session aren’t biting on his proposed emergency bill to entirely repeal the law, a Senate committee on Monday amended his proposal to keep the new rating system in place, but delay its implementation for two years. To Hogan’s staff, that apparently meant they had approved the measure, though in fact, the decision weakened his repeal bill.

The operators of commercial Facebook pages have the ability to customize posts, including links to news sources. However, the Sun objected to Hogan’s derogatory label for the law – and spin on the story – and quickly notified the governor’s staff that they had noticed their editorializing and did not approve.

After the Sun contacted Hogan’s office, Hogan’s staff corrected the post by inserting the proper headline. (The written copy for the post above the link still inaccurately says the committee’s amendments would repeal the law, rather than delay its implementation.)

The Sun reports that Hogan’s camp said this isn’t something they do very often, but because they had read similar rewording of the story from a state Republican Facebook page‘s post (since deleted) and figured they could do the same.

“We were wrong, that’s why we fixed it,” Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer told the newspaper.

Hogan’s social media team was deleting critical comments on the post about their decision to reword the headline, but apparently left a handful of negative comments up on the page from yesterday.

“It is a snow day and the governor’s staff is spending it lying to voters and clearly manipulating headlines,” wrote Facebook user Joseph Lynn Kitchen.

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Ethan McLeod

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...

One reply on “Gov. Hogan’s Staff Doctored a Baltimore Sun Headline in a Facebook Post”

  1. Oh no – stop the presses! The Governor’s staff re-jiggered a Sun “news” paper headline on a Facebook page! And then corrected it when The Sun contacted the Governor’s team! I also found the over the top closing quote from “Facebook user Joseph Lynn Kitchen” interesting since Joseph Lynn Kitchen is not just a “Facebook user” but also president of the Young Democrats of Maryland. That detail would have provided the reader some helpful context to judge the credibility of the provider of the quote. Journalistic laziness or an agenda to create manufactured outrage? The reader can draw their own conclusions as to why that information was omitted.

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