Wallack Walks Away
Victoria abdicates: Victoria Wallack is calling it quits. The respected, veteran reporter who runs the one-person Statehouse News Service, is leaving journalism at the end of September to become the director of communications for the Maine School Management Association.
Wallack’s decision not only depletes an already thin State House press corps even further, it also leaves about a dozen weekly papers (and one daily, the Times Record in Brunswick) with nobody to cover what goes on in Augusta.
Wallack began SNS in 2004 at the urging of Alan Baker, publisher of the Ellsworth American. Baker was instrumental in convincing other weeklies to sign up for her service. She filed three to six stories a week, often scooping the daily papers and public radio. She said her decision to change jobs wasn’t about the workload or the money.
“I loved it,” she said. “It taught me how the political and legislative systems work. Now, I’m intrigued to use what I’ve learned.”
Wallack said she’s assisting Baker in finding a replacement. “It’s critically important that all newspapers have someone [at the State House], either full- or part-time to watch the government,” she said. “The position will continue.”
Baker said he hopes to find someone to fill the job by the time Wallack departs. He said he’s looking for “a combination of an investigative reporter and someone who can be a self-starter about covering the kinds of things other reporters might not be covering. The daily papers and [Maine Public Radio] do a good job with the obvious stories, the press releases and the news conferences. This position requires somebody who’ll look underneath stories … a reporter with a good news nose.”
As for Wallack, she’s looking forward to specializing in education issues. “In journalism, we have to know something about everything,” she said. “It’ll be fun to become knowledgeable in just one area.”
Sun Journal takes a day off: Lewiston Sun Journal editor Rex Rhoades has often responded to criticism of his newspaper’s thin coverage by stating the Sun Journal has the same number of reporters it did a decade ago.
Maybe all those reporters were on vacation when Rhoades decided what to put on the front page on Sunday, Sept. 14.
The lineup: One Maine story – an Associated Press Q & A with the candidates for the U.S. Senate – a piece most of the state’s dailies had run the day before.
Three AP stories from other places, including a report on Hurricane Ike striking Houston. The other two articles were on a train wreck in Los Angeles and the Pope drinking water in Lourdes, France.
Not one staff-produced story.
With the exception of momentous events – presidential assassinations, terrorist attacks, space shuttle disasters – I can’t recall another Sunday in which any paper in the state has failed to offer at least one piece of original reporting right out front.
I hope this isn’t a trend in Lewiston. Because if it is, it likely won’t be a lengthy one.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.