An editorial assistant in the features department of The Sun announced his candidacy for the Baltimore City Council yesterday and promptly was suspended by his editors, who said political activity violates the newspaper's policy against mixing politics and journalism.
Kevin Brown, 31, who has worked in The Sun's features department for four years, held a news conference on the steps of The Baltimore Sun building at 501 N. Calvert St. yesterday morning, handing out leaflets declaring that he had been "fired" and that he was a candidate for the City Council in the 2nd District.
"I'm bitten by this political bug," he said. "It's what I want to do."
But John S. Carroll, editor of The Baltimore Sun, said employees in editorial departments cannot be politically active because that might create a conflict of interest -- or the perception of a conflict -- between their jobs and their outside pursuits.
"Kevin Brown has every right to run for office," Mr. Carroll said, "but his candidacy undercuts his credibility as a journalist. With regret, I have decided to suspend him without pay while we consider his status at greater length.
Representatives of Local 35 of the Washington-Baltimor Newspaper Guild immediately filed a formal challenge to the suspension.
In The Sun's features department, Mr. Brown answers telephones, compiles listings of nightclubs and concerts, and does reporting for a short question-and-answer column in the Sun Magazine.
He also attends parties, helps arrange photographs and compiles the text for the party photographs in the People section. He said he does no political reporting and therefore sees no conflict between his work and his candidacy or political fund raising.
Mr. Carroll said Mr. Brown is "a news-gatherer. He's one of the most visible newsroom employees in the community."
City Councilman Carl Stokes, D-2nd, was an employee of the newspaper's circulation department in 1987 when he ran for election and won. Up for re-election, Mr. Stokes is now a consultant for The Sun, working on such community issues as literacy and volunteerism. He has never held a job in the news departments, a distinction The Sun's editors point out.