Pipe-Bomb Story Is a Dud
Journalistic bomb: The Portland Press Herald’s coverage of the arrests of four people (one of whom has since been freed) in Portland for drug dealing and possession of pipe bombs may have set a single-story record for raising more questions than it answered. An August 18 piece by staff writer David Hench claimed the busts were related to a “drive-by shooting” in the city in June, but provided nothing resembling a link between the events, except some vague speculation by police. The article also says the shooting is connected to a conflict between drug dealers, but, again, neglects to offer any evidence.
Readers are told the shooting victim was a wanted criminal, but Hench doesn’t give us his name, nor does he tell us where he is now or if he’s in custody. As for the raid, it wasn’t clear what illegal substances and weapons were seized from what buildings (there were searches of three apartments in two different neighborhoods).
A follow-up story on August 19 cleared up the matter of what was found where, but left many other issues unresolved. Such as:
Why did police detonate some of the pipe bombs, but not others? Why did the cops choose to do that detonating in a crowded area near the Portland Expo and Fitzpatrick Stadium, requiring streets to be closed, activities cancelled and buildings evacuated? Law enforcement officials said they’d been investigating the alleged dealers for months, but there’s nothing to explain why they picked a busy weekday morning to send in the troops.
Staff writer Trevor Maxwell did a competent job in the Press Herald’s August 20 story on initial court proceedings against the defendants, but filled in none of the gaping holes in the previous coverage.
What Hench’s stories did contain was an excessive amount of posturing by Portland police and state drug agents. In the end, his articles appeared to be more about public relations for the cops than public safety.
Texas opinions: The Kennebec Journal in Augusta and Morning Sentinel in Waterville have a new editorial-page editor. Bill Thompson, who most recently wrote opinion pieces for the Fort Worth Business Press in Texas, will take over the job by “early fall,” according to a story in the August 21 editions of the papers.
Thompson doesn’t appear to have been working in journalism since leaving the Fort Worth publication in 2007. He said he’s only visited Maine on a few occasions, but has discussed the state with Richard Connor, the KJ’s and Sentinel’s publisher/editor, many times. He describes himself as conservative but not ideological.
Thompson replaces Naomi Schalit, who resigned from the editorial job in early August.
At that time, Schalit expressed frustration with Connor’s management, because he rarely communicated with her as to what positions he wanted the papers to take. While Schalit was on vacation in late July, the KJ and Sentinel published at least two editorials that contradicted positions they’d taken earlier.
Such confusion shouldn’t be an issue for Thompson, who said he’ll collaborate with Connor on some of his opinion pieces. The story also says Connor is reviewing all editorials in the KJ, Sentinel and Press Herald and “reserves the right to edit, accept or reject them.”
Irregularitis: A front-page headline in the August 19 edition of the Original Irregular, a weekly newspaper in Kingfield:
“Fines imposed on recycling ahead.”
Doesn’t the idea of recycling in advance seem kind of oxymoronic?
(For the record, there’s nothing in the rather confusing story accompanying this headline indicating any new fines were imposed, regardless of when the recycling is done.)
Irrationalitis: The Bangor Daily News got a little ahead of reality in its August 20 edition. The newspaper ran a story by staff writer Nick Sambides Jr. about a trial involving town officials in Millinocket. The headline read, “Verdict likely to cost Millinocket $240,000.” (The piece is no longer on the BDN’s Web site.)
Which was odd, because there was no verdict.
The beginning of the article perpetuated the claim of a large cash award, only briefly noting that the jury in the case was still deliberating. The “likely” cost was nothing but wishful thinking by the one of the attorneys involved.
Later on August 20, the jury awarded the plaintiff a mere $30,000.
Geo-incompetence: The Press Herald seems a bit lost in its August 20 "Go" entertainment section. Freelance bar reviewer Mike Olcott writes that while sitting on the deck at South Portland’s Saltwater Grille, patrons can “watch our fair star dip behind Munjoy Hill.”
Perhaps Olcott had one too many of the Grille’s much-praised cocktails. Not only would that account for his over-writing, but it would also explain his mistaking the ridge of the Portland peninsula for the Hill, which is actually off to right of the northwest-facing deck, well out of line with the setting sun.
Get yourself a map of the Portland area, Mike. And while you’re at it, get a copy of Strunk and White.
Shut up and play music: WJTO in Bath (730 AM) is once again broadcasting almost nothing but old songs. JTO is a commercial station, but doesn’t air advertising, instead relying on a once-a-year fundraiser to cover its small budget.
According to Radio-Info.com, station owner Bob Bittner has wrapped up his 2009 fundraiser in just nine weeks of on-air appeals (it took him over 12 weeks in 2008), collecting about $26,000. Once the station met its goal, it stopped accepting checks.
Bittner also owns WJIB in Boston, which he funds by the same quirky method.
Registration required: I’ve received some e-mails from readers of this feature upset with the new registration requirement for posting comments. I shared those concerns with my editor, Joshua Moore, who explained that the change was necessary to combat “spam robots” who’ve been flooding the site with irrelevant material.
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Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.