Cheerleading for Collins and the Cops
Love fest: Over the past few days, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has been receiving the kind of treatment in the news media, both local and national, normally reserved for war heroes and discoverers of medical miracles.
First, it was the Oct. 22 Washington Post, with a profile by Ceci Connolly that painted the Maine Republican as a crucial vote in deciding the fate of health-care reform, an assertion that owes at least as much to opinion as fact. The article is notable for the complete lack of voices critical of Collins and her fence-straddling on the issue, even though those less than enchanted with the senator have made their opinions known on numerous political Web sites, both right-wing and left-wing.
Well, what can you expect from people from away. Surely, reporters and editors back home wouldn’t be so easily sucked in.
The Bangor Daily News devoted much of its front page on Oct. 23 to reprinting the Post piece, including the phrase describing Maine as “a quirky, sparsely populated state with outsize political influence.”
On Oct. 25, the Maine Sunday Telegram apparently decided the Post hadn’t been gushy enough. It did its own story, by staff writer Matt Wickenheiser, that incorporated some of the Post’s material, but added another round of fawning interviews – again, without a single critical opinion.
Collins has a great work ethic, we’re told, because of her background growing up in northern Maine. She has an excellent resume, and she’s beloved not only by members of the GOP, but by Democrats and independents. So much so, apparently, that no one could be located who took a less positive view.
This isn’t journalism. It’s public relations.
Kiss a cop: At least Collins doesn’t yet have a reporter specially assigned to polish her image. But the Portland Police Department seems to have one. Portland Press Herald staff writer David Hench has been devoting much of his time lately to making municipal law enforcement look good. Hench outdid himself on Oct. 26 with two articles, one on the front page and one on the front of the local section, touting the advances being made by the department.
His spin on the U.S. Department of Justice’s involvement in an ongoing dispute between the police and the local Sudanese community is not that it’s a sign that old allegations of civil rights violations by Portland cops still linger.
In 2002, those issues resulted in Justice sending a team to Portland to do a full-scale investigation. But Hench mentions that bit of history only briefly, preferring to paint the arrival of a DOJ mediator as an indication of progress in resolving conflicts.
His glowing piece on the department’s use of computer software to track crime takes up a lot of space, considering it doesn’t address reports of a spike in lawlessness in the city’s Parkside neighborhood. In fact, the story doesn’t contain reaction to the new program from any neighborhood representative, calling into question whether the enthusiasm for the technology exists anywhere outside police headquarters.
And in the Press Herald newsroom.
Opening up: WGME-TV, Channel 13 in Portland is trying something daring. The station is posting video of its morning news meetings, previously only available on Facebook, on its Web site.
Watching the reporters pitch stories, many of which will never make it on the air, isn’t much more interesting than watching C-SPAN during long roll calls, but Channel 13 deserves credit for putting this stuff out there and allowing the public to see how the sausage is made.
Twisted tale: CNN weighed in on Maine’s same-sex marriage debate on Oct. 25, but managed to set some sort of record for irrelevancies, errors, and omissions in a single story.
The Web site Augusta Insider did a fine job setting the record straight.
Off to the woods: The Maine Press Association’s e-mail newsletter is reporting that Travis Barrett, who covered outdoor recreation and motor sports for the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal has quit to join the state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife as public relations representative.
Adverb challenged: Headline on the Oct. 25 editorial in the Lewiston Sun Journal (which hasn’t been posted online):
“Collins should speak clearer on health care.”
Sun Journal should write gooder.
(Although, at least, the grammar-challenged paper gets points for bucking the senator’s publicity machine.)