Maine's Media Wrestles with How to Cover Itself
Mainely marred: The story in the July 4 Maine Sunday Telegram was unremarkable. A woman had started a Web site offering coupons for deals at Portland-area salons.
Similar sites are common, and nothing in the article by staff writer Stephanie Hardiman indicated why MainelyMara.com was being singled out for coverage. Nothing, that is, except for the proprietor’s last name.
The site’s owner is Mara Higgins, who’s married to Joseph Higgins (referred to in the piece only as “her Mainer husband”). Joseph is the son of John Higgins, president of Ram Trust Services. Ram is a major investor in MaineToday Media, the Telegram’s parent company, and sits on the MTM board.
At the least, this story should have contained a disclaimer indicating the connection. At the most, the Telegram should have had the integrity to resist becoming a public-relations tool for the family of one of its financers.
Lange leaving: Mike Lange, executive director of the Maine Press Association, is resigning. Lange sent a letter to MPA board members on July 1 announcing his plans to depart effective Dec. 1, which would give him about two years tenure in the position.
Lange, 67, has had a long career in the Maine newspaper business – starting with the Advertiser Democrat in 1980, putting in time with the Morning Sentinel and, prior to his current gig, as editor of the Moosehead Messenger in Greenville. Recently, he’s been freelancing for the Hometown Newspapers, a chain of free weeklies.
In his letter, he said he wanted to devote more time to that work, as well as to his family and volunteer work with the Elks. “It’s time for the dinosaur to head back to the cave,” he wrote.
In a phone interview, Lange said the executive director’s job took an average of fifteen hours a week, but the demands varied greatly, with heavy time commitments necessary during the association’s annual contest and other events.
He urged the board to begin seeking a replacement without delay.
Overkill on a killing: Can anyone explain how the Maine Sunday Telegram justified devoting almost four pages on July 4 to Dennis Dechaine, a convicted murderer serving a life sentence, without including a single bit of new information on his twenty-two-year-old case? Even Dechaine complained he was tired of answering the same old questions. And there’s another overblown segment scheduled for this coming Sunday.
It could be argued that Dechaine merited some sort of story, because his conviction is – again – scheduled for review in the near future. But this massive rehash? Why?
Space filler would be my guess.
No bragging about this award: The Phoenix weekly newspapers gave out their 13th annual Muzzle Awards last week, recognizing the year’s most flagrant attempts to stifle free speech. (Disclosure: my weekly political column runs in the Portland edition of the Phoenix.) Among the winners – along with the likes of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the police chief of Boston – was the Portland Press Herald.
The daily paper received the “honor” for its May 14 editorial headlined “Falmouth has a right to set ground rules for debate,” arguing that a civility code for public comments at Falmouth Town Council meetings was an acceptable abridgement of free-speech rights.
The code was later unanimously rejected by councilors.
Other media mutterings: Portland Phoenix editor Jeff Inglis has an interesting column on the restrictions on media coverage that were imposed – and hastily rescinded – at the Nateva Music Festival in Oxford last weekend.
The promoter’s public-relations firm tried to limit what photos could be taken and insisted that any pictures were automatically the property of Nateva. This sort of power play is called a “rights grab” by media ethics experts. It elicited immediate objections from news outlets and a rapid retraction by the promoter.
What’s odd is that all the other news organizations covering this event ignored this story, even though they had to be aware of it. I’m wondering why and hoping it wasn’t because they wanted to remain in the good graces of the event’s organizers.
Meanwhile, William P. Davis has some sharp observations on the use of social media by Maine daily papers at the new Maine Observer Web site. Davis, in his MediaMe blog, explains how the Press Herald and Bangor Daily News continue to put little effort into Twitter and Facebook, while the Lewiston Sun Journal is exploiting those sites for all they’re worth.
This aspect of disseminating news is much under-reported (by me, among others). Here’s hoping Davis will be picking up the slack.
From Bone to Rome: As reported here a couple of weeks ago, the former rock station known as “The Bone” (WHXR, 106.7 FM in North Windham) switched call letters to WXTP recently. That was interpreted as a sign the station would soon be sold by Nassau Broadcasting, and that interpretation turned out to be correct.
WXTP is now being operated by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland and has been rechristened as “The Presence.”
The station features talk programming from the EWTN Global Catholic Radio Network. A similar station is planned for the Bangor area.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com