Separation of Fact and Fiction
Unconstitutional: If a front-page story on April 22 is any indication, Lewiston Sun Journal staff writer Rebekah Metzler and her editors need remedial help in math and history.
Not to mention journalism.
In an above-the-fold article headlined “Gay marriage on center stage,” Metzler cites what appear to be erroneous results from a new poll on Mainers’ attitudes toward same-sex marriage. Unlike reports in the Bangor Daily News and the Portland Press Herald, the Sun Journal’s figures don’t come close to totaling 100 percent, nor is there any explanation of how almost 4 percent of poll respondents seem to have vanished. Metzler also neglects to inform readers of the survey’s margin of error or its reliability, even though both pieces of information are considered mandatory in most news reports involving statistics.
But the sloppiness doesn’t end there.
In the next paragraph after the off-the-mark poll results, Metzler informs her readers that “the U.S. Constitution calls specifically for the separation of church and state.”
While Thomas Jefferson made note in an 1802 letter of what he believed was a “wall of separation” between government and religion, as a result of the First Amendment’s prohibition of both a state church and government limits on worship, the Constitution doesn’t contain the phrase Metzler cited, specifically or otherwise. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions that such a division exists, and that’s the actual source of the legal concept.
As of April 23, neither of these mistakes had been corrected.
Unfiled: Joel Elliott was fired in January from his job as a staff writer at the Morning Sentinel in Waterville for reasons that have generated some controversy.
Elliott told several people he intended to file a grievance through his union, the Portland Newspaper Guild, contesting his dismissal. But according to e-mails supplied by an informed source, no such grievance has been filed.
Elliott is said to be out of the country, but has been communicating with the Guild, repeatedly asking if the procedure was underway. In an April 22 e-mail, union official Kathy Munroe responded, “no, the company agreed to waive timelines....with the understanding that should the sale not go through we would proceed.”
Pennsylvania newspaper publisher Richard Connor is aiming to complete his purchase of the Sentinel and the other Blethen Maine Newspapers by the end of the month or during the first week in May. If that happens, it appears both labor and management are hoping Elliott – and the ethical questions his dismissal raised – will just go away.
And speaking of labor problems: From a story by staff writer David Hart in the April 22 issue of the Original Irregular, a weekly newspaper published in Kingfield:
“In light of an almost unionized concern from the national media reporting dismal economic conditions and a lot of gloom and doom, this western mountain community’s ‘ebb’ compared to its ‘flow’ appears to be fairly balanced according to those who responded.”
Maybe only the bosses responded.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.