Sun's Up! Free Portland Daily Debuts
First light: The Portland Daily Sun put out its first issue today, debuting on a Tuesday because the free paper will only publish five days a week, skipping Sunday and Monday.
“It’s a national trend to drop Monday editions — they are the weakest advertising day of the week — and Sunday papers are a whole different animal,” Robinson wrote. He said the Sun would carry an expanded entertainment calendar and other features in its Saturday editions.
(An aside: I hear rumors that once the sale of the Portland Press Herald is completed in March, the new owners will also dump the Monday edition as a cost-saving measure. Not having to compete with the Sun on that day makes such a decision easier.)
In his editorial, Robinson also addressed questions about the Sun’s political slant. “[O]ur news coverage will, we hope, be as unbiased as we can be without wringing the last vestige of humanity from our writing,” he said. If there’s a hidden agenda at the new paper, the initial issue didn’t offer much in the way of clues. Coverage was straightforward. although the topics covered weren’t particularly controversial.
In listing the paper’s staff, Robinson goes out of his way to mention that each is a Portland resident, but doesn’t say how long they’ve lived there. Not long, I suspect. His two reporters, David Carkhuff and Casey Conley, appear to be reasonably experienced in covering municipal government, but the Sun may suffer from the lack of an employee with a deeper knowledge of Portland’s history, personality and quirks. Time, however, could correct that deficiency.
As for the premiere issue, it has some old news (a lead story on the defacing of a synagogue – that happened last week – and a rally against hate – that happened two days ago), some non-news (Portland didn’t experience much rowdy behavior on Super Bowl Sunday) and some minor news (Portland may need to tweak its public arts ordinance to permit the Metro bus service to put its logo on bus shelters).
In that last piece, lack of familiarity with the city (and some sloppy reporting) played a role, when a member of the public arts committee was repeatedly identified as “Jack Solly.” A quick check of the city’s Web site would have informed the unnamed reporter (the Sun doesn’t use bylines for some reason) that his last name is spelled “Soley.”
If the Sun staff had been around town a little longer, they’d also have known Jack Soley as the son of Portland’s most notorious landlord, Joe Soley.
Assuming the paper survives the economic downturn, problems like that should become rarities.
It’s worth noting that the Sun missed the best local story of the day: the City Council’s decision to close two island polling places. The rival Press Herald had it on the front page.
As for its appearance, the Sun’s Web site is simple and easy to navigate, although light on graphics (how about showing us the Metro logo? a photo of Soley?). Being out of town, I haven’t seen the print version, so I await comments from those who have.
Kaplan is now working in a “communications role” in the office of California Democratic U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher.
New attitude? One of the partners in Maine Media Investments, the company that’s buying the Press Herald and the rest of the Blethen Maine Newspapers, is former U.S. Sen. William Cohen. Cohen is also involved in an effort to build a casino on Indian land in California.
I wonder what effect that will have on the Press Herald’s long-standing editorial opposition to expanding gambling in Maine?
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.