Don’t mess with the college: Pseudonymous blogger T. Cushing Munjoy has posted the letter from Morning Sentinel executive editor Eric Conrad to reporter Joel Elliott, who was fired from the Waterville paper last month, listing the reasons for his dismissal.
The document cites several previously reported disputes involving Elliott, but also contains this remarkable admission by Conrad:
“A request was made recently by Colby College that you not be assigned to cover any events at the college and further requesting that you not be assigned to write about the college at all.”
It’s not clear either from the letter or from Elliot’s published stories in the Sentinel what he did to annoy the powers that be at Colby. Without that information, we’re left with the strong impression that, in making the decision to terminate Elliott’s employment, the newspaper yielded, at least in part, to pressure from an influential local institution – an institution that reportedly employs Conrad’s wife.
If that isn’t the case, it’s well past time for somebody at the Sentinel to explain this situation to its readers. If it is the case, it’s probably too late for an apology.
Don’t mess with the analog transmitter: Here’s an update on my posting last week on Maine TV stations’ decisions on how to handle the conversion from analog to digital.
The two stations that hadn’t yet announced whether they’d keep their analog transmitters in operation until June have decided to do so. WLBZ-TV in Bangor (Channel 2) and WCSH-TV in Portland (Channel 6) will continue to offer viewers both analog and digital options until the federal deadline for going all digital.
Don’t mess with the status quo: The Portland Press Herald’s Feb. 11 story on efforts to change Maine’s annual car-inspection law came off as superficial, particularly when compared to a similar story in the December issue of The Bollard, a Portland monthly.
(Disclosure: Bollard editor Chris Busby is my former editor at Casco Bay Weekly.)
Press Herald reporter Beth Quimby cites a Maine State Police officer who claims the “rate of accidents caused by motor vehicle defects is lower in Maine because of annual inspections.” Other supporters of annual inspections mentioned the effect the state’s harsh winters have on brakes as a big reason for keeping the yearly checkups.
But in The Bollard, freelancer Peter Zinn came up with more than opinions. He got some actual numbers. “Over the past 18 months,” he wrote, “there were four fatal crashes in Maine resulting from brake failure. All four vehicles had a current inspection sticker.”
Where Quimby fills her piece with quotes from opponents and proponents of the change, Zinn did some actual research, finding a study comparing accident rates in states with inspection programs to those without. It showed “no evidence that inspections significantly reduce fatality or injury rates.”
Zinn’s story is openly biased against the annual inspection program, but he at least backs up his slant with some facts. Quimby’s article isn’t opinionated, but lacks the information readers would need to form an opinion of their own.
Messing with anonymity: An alert reader spotted this one and raised an interesting ethical question. On Feb. 9, the Kennebec Journal carried an online update about an attempted suicide by an inmate at the Kennebec County Jail.
As is standard procedure in reporting on suicide attempts, the reporter didn’t identify the person by name, but did give other details including where, when and why the person was arrested. Anyone who wanted to know the name would only have had to check the KJ’s police blotter for the same day to discover her identity.
“So if you are not going to list the name,” the reader inquired, “why list so much information that it is easy to tell who the person is?”
Good question. I wish I had as good an answer.
Messing with antecedents: Anchor Cindy Williams on WCSH-TV’s 5 p.m. newscast on Feb. 10:
“The attorney for the young man awaiting trial for killing three members of his family is expected to change his plea to guilty when he appears in court later this month.”
No surprise. Most lawyers are guilty of something.
Messing with geography: Anchor Pat Callaghan on WCSH-TV’s 6 p.m. newscast on Feb. 10:
“People from all corners of the world converged on Falmouth today and left united. Forty-nine people representing five of the seven continents took part in a naturalization ceremony at Falmouth Middle School this morning.”
Those other two continents don’t have any corners?
Messing with scheduling: From the Feb. 11 edition of Original Irregular. a weekly newspaper published in Kingfield:
“[Comedian Bob Marley] will be putting on two shows: 6, 8 and 9:45 p.m.”
Don’t be late. Or early.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.