This month, I have a couple of sad announcements to make.
First, after eight years with the Bay Journal, Rona Kobell is leaving to join Maryland Sea Grant as a science writer and editor.
Rona has been with us since the fall of 2009, when she became our first full-time staff reporter. Since then, she’s covered a wide variety of issues, from the regional booms in Marcellus Shale and oyster aquaculture to the controversies over fisheries management and phosphorus application on farmland in Maryland, among a host of other issues.
Her reporting had real impact. Her feature about the Phillips Wharf Educational Center on the Eastern Shore helped it secure the funding it needed to become a reality. Her reporting this year about the firing of a longtime Maryland crab scientist stirred a furor that led to articles by newspapers throughout the region, and the firing became the subject of a legislative hearing in Annapolis.
Rona’s also won plenty of professional recognition for her work, including being among 26 “women greening journalism” recognized in 2015 by The National Audubon Society for their work to advance public awareness of environmental issues.
Besides reporting, Rona has worn many additional hats over the years. She was a keen-eyed proofreader, and took over our fledgling Facebook page, which under her guidance has since grown to more than 4,200 likes.
And, for several years, Rona gave us a regular radio presence with the much-listened-to Midday on the Bay program on WYPR in Baltimore.
We’ll all miss Rona’s hard work and enthusiasm and wish her the best in her new position.
It is also a sad note that in November we had to resort to filing a suit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to meet a statutory deadline to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request.
Our request had sought information pertaining to the agency’s abrupt termination of a grant to our nonprofit organization to support publication of the Bay Journal to help inform the public about Bay-related issues.
We were seeking information, among other things, about the agency’s unexplained “shift in priorities” which it cited as the reason for cancelling a six-year grant after only two years.
The agency’s failure to provide a timely response to the request means that potentially relevant information was not available to us by the initial deadline for filing an administrative appeal of the decision.