Inaccurate, inexperienced or just inarticulate? I can’t blame Larry Grard, a reporter for the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, for being confused as to what Republican 2nd District congressional candidate John Frary was talking about during an Oct. 17 debate at Colby College. Asked by a Maine Public Broadcasting Network reporter whether he supported the $700 billion Wall Street bailout bill, Frary mumbled and muttered his way through his answer.
“I do not admire that bill,” he said in one of his few clear moments.
Not unreasonably, Grard interpreted that as meaning Frary would have opposed the measure and wrote a story indicating the GOP candidate agreed with his opponent, Democratic U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, on the issue.
Michaud twice voted against the bailout.
Trouble is, Frary actually supports the legislation. In an Oct. 3 posting on the conservative As Maine Goes Web site, the GOP candidate said he didn’t like the bill, but he’d have voted for it because there was no alternative. Which is sort of what I think he said in the debate (I listened to the recording three times), except the average observer would have needed an interpreter to figure it out.
Grard, who doesn’t usually cover politics, was apparently unaware of Frary’s earlier statement. Unfortunately, his erroneous story ran in several papers around the state, thanks to the story-swapping deal among Maine dailies, so this bit of misinformation is now widely disseminated and probably can’t be recalled.
Which is one good reason why newspapers should send political reporters to cover political debates.
Unexpected or just inarticulate? Rob Caldwell, WCSH-TV anchor, introducing a story on the 5:30 p.m. newscast on Oct. 15: “Tolls on the Maine Turnpike are expected to increase a year earlier than expected.”
Inaccurate and inarticulate: From an editorial in the Oct. 16 Bridgton News (sorry, no Web link):
“Watch out: Question 1 is a trick question, Here’s the skivvy: A ‘yes’ vote ends public funding of Dirigo. We should either fund it with regular tax dollars or eliminate the program, which has not worked as advertised.”
You can keep your skivvies if it’s all the same. A “yes” vote does not end public funding for Dirigo. It continues the current method of public funding. I’m not sure what “regular tax dollars” are, but if the program “has not worked as advertised,” why spend them?
If you don’t understand the issue, don’t write an editorial about it.
Accurate? Maybe. Unbiased? Probably not: Here are the first three paragraphs of the lead story by reporter Duke Harrington in the Oct. 16 issue of Norway’s Advertiser Democrat, on the town of Oxford being chosen as the possible site of a casino:
“Sometimes, you just have to stay in the game.
“Oxford has taken a beating lately, losing more than 300 jobs since March with the closure of two modular home factories. But on Thursday, Oct. 9, the town rolled boxcars, drew a royal flush, hit the megabucks and found the marble under the cup, all at the same time.
“Anyone in favor of changing Maine law to allow a casino might be forgiven for thinking Oxford has hit the jackpot.”
So, how are you voting, Duke?
Does anybody check this stuff for accuracy? From the Oct. 16 Portland Press Herald profile of the legislative candidates in House District 115, a part of Portland, by staff writer Tux Turkel:
“A nurse, [Green Independent Party candidate Michael] Hiltz ran against [term-limited incumbent Democratic state Rep. Glenn] Cummings in 2004, and his strong showing encouraged him to try again.”
Definitions of “strong showing” can vary, but generally don’t include getting clobbered three to one, which is what happened to Hiltz in ’04.
Did they think we wouldn’t notice? Buried deep in the Times Record’s Oct. 10 story on editorial changes at the Brunswick daily is this intriguing tidbit:
“[F]ive full-time employees and one part-time employee of the newspaper accepted early retirement packages this month. They worked in the newsroom, subscriber services, production department and business office.”
At least this round of cutbacks merited a mention in the paper. When the Times Record’s new owner, Sample News Group, took over last February, it axed 10 employees, but left that information out of coverage of the transition.
As for the current round of editorial shifts, James McCarthy, the managing editor who decided the February layoffs weren’t newsworthy, will become the opinion page editor. Robert Long will move from running the editorial page to the dual jobs of managing editor and city editor, replacing both McCarthy and Christopher Cousins, who left the city editing post to staff the Statehouse News Service.
Did they think we didn’t notice? On Oct. 18, the Bangor Daily News ran an editorial endorsing Barack Obama for president.
Once was plenty.
Somebody finally noticed: The Kennebec Journal and reporter Meghan Malloy have corrected a serious oversight in their coverage of the state House race in District 79. As mentioned here earlier, Malloy and the KJ missed the fact that Republican candidate Charles Jacques is a convicted felon.
In an Oct. 17 story on a meeting of Jacques, Democratic candidate Sharon Treat and the KJ editorial board, the paper finally let the voters know about Jacques’ record.
Better late than never.
Funeral notice: The Wise Guide has finally come to the end of its run.
The Greater Portland shopper was around for 35 years, filled with classified ads for everything anyone might want to buy and a whole lot nobody would. Being devoid of editorial content, it wouldn’t merit a mention here, except for one brief historical footnote.
A few years after the paper started (I think it was sometime in the late ‘70s), the Wise Guide experimented with running a few stories and columns in each issue. Some of that material was provocative in an alternative-press sort of way.
After a few months, the publisher decided the “hippie stuff” was too expensive and too controversial, so he dumped it. But the editor and many of the freelancers started their own publication called the Real Guide. Like lots of alt-weeklies in Portland, both before and since, it didn’t last long. But it did help launch the career of Edgar Allen Beem (who wrote and drew a satirical column/cartoon called “Moto and Guzzi”).
For that, at least, it deserves to be remembered.
According to an e-mail from publisher/editor Chris Busby (my old editor at Casco Bay Weekly), the improved product will feature an extensive archive and all the Bollard’s monthly print editions, which had previously only been available on line in the hard-to-use PDF format.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.