Press Herald Columnist Canned for Unattributed Info
Ethical lapse: According to an editor’s note in the August 9 Portland Press Herald, the paper has permanently parted ways with local columnist Leigh Donaldson.
The note says Donaldson’s August 2 column headlined “Increased vulnerability to scams is a disease of old age” (the piece is no longer posted on the paper’s Web site) contained “a substantial amount of content” taken without attribution from material originally published on AlterNet.org.
Donaldson’s article is almost entirely composed of information lifted from the July 17 story by Anneli Rufus called “10 of the Con Artists’ Favorite Ways to Scam the Elderly.”
While Donaldson never appropriated any of Rufus’ prose, he did use her ideas, her research, and her conclusions without giving her credit.
In a phone interview, Donaldson called the incident “regrettable” and added, “I dropped the ball in terms of neglecting to give attribution. It was totally unintentional. It’s unfortunate, but I’ve written this column for more than three years, and this has never happened before. I’m usually very careful about attributing.”
Great Scott: MaineToday Media’s Susan Cover did an excellent job in her August 8 profile of independent gubernatorial candidate Kevin Scott.
Unlike the superficial pieces on candidates Cover has produced in the past, this article includes some serious digging into Scott’s controversial role in local politics in Andover over the last few years. There’s plenty of material here that ought to help voters make up their minds on whether Scott is a viable choice in November.
Here’s hoping this is a sign of more substantial coverage to come.
Lousy Libby: Those who prefer political reporting that consists primarily of rehashes of previous stories will be delighted to discover the Associated Press’ latest piece on Democratic gubernatorial candidate Libby Mitchell.
In providing, yet again, the well-known details of Mitchell’s biography, the AP has produced an (unbylined in all the papers I saw) article that could have been authored by the candidate’s campaign. No depth. No insight. No hint of controversy.
There has to be more to somebody who’s been in public life for decades than this waste of time and ink.
Silent Statehouse: The Statehouse News Service, which produced a number of notable scoops over the past few years, has been out of commission this summer. And it’s far from clear if it’ll return in the fall.
Statehouse, originally organized by Ellsworth American publisher Alan Baker provided coverage of state government to several weekly and daily papers from its one-person bureau in Augusta. But with the departure of Lorie Costigan (former editor of this site) in the spring, the stories dried up.
“We haven’t really talked … about re-upping in the fall,” Baker said. “And frankly, with tight news holes, I don’t know if we’re open to buy any more [stories].”
That sounds ominous, but Baker did leave the door open to some sort of revival.
“We’ve got to figure out some way to get more State House news in the paper,” he said. “But I can’t be more specific. We just haven’t addressed it yet.”
Government help? No thanks: Speaking of the Ellsworth American, the weekly recently carried an editorial (not available online) that slammed the idea of public subsidies for struggling news outlets. The opinion piece makes it clear there’s no need for tax dollars to keep quality journalism alive, at least in Maine.
“With eight daily newspapers [apparently including the Portsmuth Herald], owned by five organizations, and more than two dozen weeklies, including seven in Hancock County and four in Washington County, print journalism is very much alive in [the state] and shows no signs of disappearing any time soon,” the editorial says.
The piece points out that circulation is up at many weekly papers, including the American, making a subsidy not only unnecessary, but dangerous.
“If there’s one thing we in the newspaper industry do not need,” the editorial says, “it is those in government setting the rules about how to run our business, and serving up handouts to their political friends to compete against anyone with a contrary opinion.”
Institutional memory lapse: The featured obituary in the August 9 Portland Press Herald was accompanied by a photo of the late James E. Clark, a noted photographer, receiving an award in 2003 from someone the caption refers to as “an unidentified legislator.”
If all the veteran editors and reporters hadn’t left the Portland paper, somebody might have recognized the guy as then-Speaker of the Maine House Patrick Colwell.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com