Big Ads, Negative Coverage in the Press Herald
Devaluing the Roadshow: For about a week, the Buying Roadshow, a New Mexico-based company that purchases old jewelry and antiques, has been running huge ads – three full pages each day – in The Portland Press Herald touting its appearance at a South Portland hotel. This Roadshow bears no relation to the PBS program “Antiques Roadshow,” which appraises old items and explains their origins. Buying Roadshow is strictly business, searching for whatever valuables it thinks it can sell later at a higher price.
The Press Herald has displayed a tendency in recent months to pander to advertisers by publishing puff pieces on them. So, it shouldn’t have been a surprise when the paper sent staff writer Beth Quimby to cover the Roadshow. What was a surprise was that Quimby’s April 14 story was anything but a puff piece. The article, which mentioned the extensive advertising in the paper, followed a woman selling jewelry through the process. She discovered the Roadshow didn’t offer nearly as much money as she expected for many of her items. Quimby then quotes a Portland-based dealer as saying traveling operations like the Buying Roadshow traditionally pay less than market value for rare pieces.
Oddly, Quimby has nothing in her story in response to these claims from officials of the Roadshow, a curious omission since she went out of her way to get reaction from a local competitor. And coverage in other papers around the country indicates Roadshow employees seem willing to be interviewed.
It could be that I’m seeing sinister motives where none exist. Quimby could have failed to cover all the angles through laziness or sloppiness. And Press Herald management isn’t noted for subtlety when it comes to catering to its ad customers on the news pages. But I can’t help wondering if this story was intended to be a sort of anti-puff piece, stroking a local company at the expense of a transient advertiser.
I’ve seen plenty of “Buy Local” campaigns.
This might be the first time I’ve come across “Pander Local.”
At least in newspapers.
Distracted editing: The Press Herald didn’t bother to use coverage from its sister paper, the Kennebec Journal, to report on the Tea Party protest held in Augusta on April 15. Instead, the April 16 Portland paper carried an Associated Press piece on the rally.
That wouldn’t have been a problem if the copy editor had been paying attention when he or she clipped off the end of the AP article, leaving this as the story’s conclusion:
“A Maine consumer group's leader dismissed tea party activists' rhetoric as ‘just a colorful distraction’ from real issues that confront Mainers such as unaffordable health insurance, toxic pollution and abuses by financial institutions.”
What consumer group? Who was the leader? Why does he get a free shot at the Tea Partiers without having to reveal his identity?
To answer the first two questions, one had to seek out the same piece online, where the rest of the AP story shows up. It was the Maine People’s Alliance and its executive director, Jesse Graham.
The answer to the third question seems to be either ineptness or indifference at the Press Herald.
For more comprehensive (and better edited) Tea Party coverage, news junkies are advised to check out the radio report on the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, which offered a balanced assessment, or the Bangor Daily News, which covered rallies in both Augusta and Bangor.
Confused commissioners: Here’s how Press Herald staff writer Dennis Hoey described the Portland Charter Commission’s latest gathering in his April 16 story:
“In what turned out to be one of the Charter Commission's most addled meetings, commissioners in attendance voted 5-4 to separate the question of creating the position of an elected mayor from the question of whether to have ranked-choice voting to elect the mayor.”
The word “addled” should be used more often in connection with public deliberations.
Al Diamon is taking a week off. E-mails to firstname.lastname@example.org will be dealt with when he returns.