MaineToday Media Pulls a 180
A foolish consistency: Republican U.S. Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins could be excused if they’re a little uncertain as to how editor/publisher Richard Connor of MaineToday Media wants them to vote on health-care reform. On August 1, Connor’s newspapers – the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, and Morning Sentinel – ran editorials urging moderates Snowe and Collins to resist compromising with Democrats and “to act like Republicans from time to time. The ongoing battle over health care is precisely such a time.”
The editorial took many readers by surprise because, under the previous owners, the papers had been generally supportive of Snowe’s and Collins’ efforts to find common ground on the issue with members of the opposing party.
There was another surprise on Sept. 20, when Connor’s editorial pages appeared to revert to their old position.
The papers’ latest opinion piece urged Snowe to continue working to find “middle ground” that could appeal to other moderate members of the GOP such as Collins. It also criticized Republican senators who “have seemed more interested in the political advantage they might win by derailing the Democratic president’s top domestic policy initiative than in working toward health care reform.” It called on Snowe, Collins and other moderate Republicans “to find a way to work within this structure [the Baucus bill], understanding that more reforms will be needed down the road.”
As for where Connor will stand on the issue further along that proverbial road, I’m sure Snowe, Collins and his readers can’t wait to find out.
Where others fear to tread: WGME-TV in Portland deserves credit for doing something the rest of the Maine media was too timid to attempt. Channel 13 sent a photojournalist into the Sept. 13 rally by opponents of same-sex marriage held at the Augusta Civic Center.
Organizers of the event had announced the rally was open to members of the public who were sympathetic to their cause. But reporters and photographers were told they weren’t welcome. After attending a press conference before the rally, most of the media retreated meekly to their newsrooms. The only exception I’m aware of was the shooter from WGME. According to a report aired on the station on Sept. 17, the cameraman just walked in, making no attempt to conceal his mini-cam or recording activities.
It’s odd that Channel 13 waited four days to air this footage, particularly since the speeches recorded at the rally contained virtually no new information and had minimal news value. Brief interviews with a spokesman for the anti-same-sex-marriage group and a supporter of the legislation added little to the piece. But it’s reassuring to know there are still some journalists who won’t always take no for an answer when it comes to getting a story.
Better read than dead: Staff writer Gillian Graham of the Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach Courier did a first-rate job of reporting on an important education story in the weekly paper’s Sept. 17 edition, a job that’s all the more impressive for the way Graham handled a threat against her made by a public official she interviewed.
Graham wrote about the aftermath of the state Department of Education’s decision to throw out Biddeford’s eighth-grade scores on the science portion of the Maine Educational Assessment test because a teacher appeared to have given students advance information on the questions. The teacher in question turned out to be the daughter of Peggy Bean, a member of the Biddeford school board. It’s not clear what action the board took against the teacher, although it appears she’s no longer employed. But it is clear what Bean thought of Graham’s plans to write a story about the situation in which Bean’s daughter would be identified.
“Put that name in the paper and you’re dead, believe me,” Bean is quoted as telling the reporter.
To Graham’s and the Courier’s credit, they used the name anyway. To their further credit, they didn’t sensationalize the situation by plastering Bean’s threat across the headlines. It was placed appropriately, three-quarters of the way through the detailed article, which is a model of both thoroughness and restraint.
Three times isn’t the charm: According to a notice to readers in the Sept. 15 Herald Gazette, the paper that covers Rockland and Camden is reducing its frequency of publication from thrice weekly to twice. The Herald Gazette will no longer put out a Tuesday edition, but will continue its Thursday and Saturday papers.
Ron Belyea – vice president of Village Soup, the Herald Gazette’s owner – said in the notice that the decision reflected the results of a reader survey earlier this year. “We also continue to evolve and change based on our understanding of the developments in the global economy and the news business,” Belyea wrote.
(Disclosure: My weekly political column runs in the Herald Gazette.)
The notice doesn’t seem to be posted on the paper’s Web site.
Multiple challenges: The Morning Sentinel wasn’t confused about what to do with this quote from Eric Haley, the school superintendent in Waterville, on problems in consolidating the city’s education system with that of two other towns:
“Everything, in most cases, is tripled and in some cases quadrupled. We have about 4,000 students instead of 2,000, and we’ve doubled our staff …. It can be confusing.”
The Sentinel put the quote in bold and pasted it at the top of the Sept. 21 front-page story on the new school district’s growing pains.
The paper is still awaiting the arrival of its new editorial-page editor, but when he finally shows up, one of his first opinion pieces will no doubt be on the need for remedial math courses for local school administrators.