Fired editor sues fledgling newspaper Community publication accused of defamation

April 16, 1996|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Joe Mathews contributed to this article.

The six-week-old Baltimore News, the newspaper financed by several notable politicians, is off to a rocky start.

Mark J. Adams, a disbarred lawyer who was its sole editor, was fired last month and has sued the paper and its publisher, former City Council President Walter S. Orlinsky, seeking back pay and alleging defamation.

In his suit, Mr. Adams paints a portrait of a fledgling newspaper in disarray and blames Mr. Orlinsky.

The newspaper, distributed to 20 city neighborhoods, is backed by several investors, including former Mayor and Gov. William Donald Schaefer and former City Council President Mary Pat Clarke.

Mr. Adams, who was fired less than a month after the newspaper's first issue, accuses Mr. Orlinsky of using the paper as a vehicle to promote himself.

"As the paper was developed, it became less of a community newspaper and more of a weekly statement by Wally," Mr. Adams said in an interview yesterday.

In his suit, Mr. Adams accuses Mr. Orlinsky of failing to institute financial controls, of changing the paper's circulation area without telling investors or advertisers, and of promising business owners that they could write articles in exchange for buying ads.

"Orlinsky attempted to have various parties, including himself, write under aliases, falsely attempting to create the appearance of a larger staff," says the suit, which was filed in Baltimore County Circuit Court last week.

"He must be smoking something," Mr. Orlinsky said in response to the accusation about false bylines.

Mr. Orlinsky said yesterday that he had not seen the suit, but he blamed Mr. Adams for the paper's problems.

"Suffice it to say he's whistling a very bad rendition of 'Dixie,' " said Mr. Orlinsky, who accused Mr. Adams of failing to meet deadlines and of putting out a poor newspaper.

"Here is a young man who made a lot of promises about putting out a paper that he couldn't deliver. Now he's covering his embarrassment by running around and saying it's someone else's fault," Mr. Orlinsky said.

Mr. Adams has been replaced as editor by Ruth T. Carter, a Federal Hill writer and editor, Mr. Orlinsky said.

The former editor is seeking $5,000 for back salary, $50,000 for other services, $55,000 for misrepresentation and $1 million for defamation.

Since its inception, the newspaper has published several articles about community problems and plans for development. The tabloid circulates in predominantly white sections of the city. Owners had hoped for a circulation of 45,000.

Pub Date: 4/16/96

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