Changes in the Maine State House Press Corps
From the SJ to the KJ: Lewiston Sun Journal State House reporter Rebekah Metzler is switching newspapers, but not beats. Metzler is moving to the Kennebec Journal next week to become part of MaineToday Media’s State House bureau, according to KJ managing editor Tony Ronzio. She fills the spot left open by the departure of Ethan Wilensky-Lanford earlier this month.
The change should result in a noticeable upgrade in MaineToday’s coverage of state government and politics. While Metzler started slowly at the Sun Journal, she’s developed over the last year into one of the better reporters covering the capital. She’s often scooped the competition on important stories (although that initiative may clash with MaineToday CEO Richard Connor’s much-publicized indifference to scoops) and did a good job of explaining the local implications of state issues for her readers in central and western Maine.
As for the Lewiston paper, executive editor Rex Rhoades said he’s already begun the search for Metzler’s replacement.
Clueless in Skowhegan: Television news operations are often accused of ripping off stories from the daily papers, and to some extent that’s true. But WCSH-TV reporter Chris Rose can’t be criticized for getting his facts from print sources in his June 28 piece on Somerset County Sheriff Barry DeLong’s threat to close part of his jail in Skowhegan.
That’s because Rose had almost no facts.
Rose reported that DeLong planned to shut down sections of the lockup that house inmates from other counties unless “the state ponies up more money” to board those prisoners.
The reality, as reported in the Morning Sentinel on several occasions, is DeLong is upset because the state board of corrections has yet to approve the budget for his jail, which means Somerset County will have to wait until at least August to find out how much it will be reimbursed for housing other counties’ inmates. Rather than take a chance that payment will be too low, DeLong plans to refuse to accept outsiders.
The whole issue is a small segment of the complexities involving the new system that has county jails partly administered by the state. It also has to do with internal politics in Somerset, where some county officials are trying to hang onto surplus funds.
That’s all kind of complicated for TV, but that’s still no excuse for Rose getting the basic facts wrong.
Maybe he should try reading a newspaper once in a while.
Or maybe print editors should watch TV: The Bangor Daily News has a habit of holding onto articles it receives from other Maine papers under a story-sharing arrangement, sometimes running them several days after they’ve first appeared elsewhere. In most cases, that doesn’t make much difference, so long as the BDN’s readers don’t mind stale news.
But on occasion, the delay makes the Bangor paper look foolish.
That’s what happened on June 30, when the paper ran a June 29 Lewiston Sun Journal piece on Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz, two men from Buckfield who’d invented a vehicle powered by Diet Coke and Mentos. The story said the pair was appearing on the David Letterman show to demonstrate the stunt.
Better never than this late.
Big names on board: The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, the non-profit investigative journalism group headed by former newspaper publisher John Christie, has firmed up the membership on its board of directors.
According to a press release issued June 29, Jay Davis, former editor at Maine Times and Village Soup, is the new president. Other board members include Allyson Hughes Handley, president of the University of Maine at Augusta; David Offer, retired editor of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel; Fletcher Kittredge, CEO of Great Works Internet; Bert Languet, vice president of Golden Pond Wealth Management; Ann Luther, co-chair of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections; David Scobey, director of the Harward Center for Community Partnerships at Bates College; Daniel Amory, attorney at Drummond Woodsum; and Mary Mayo, vice president for development at GrowSmart Maine.
The center also has some impressive names on its advisory committee, including Joe Bergantino, senior investigative reporter for the New England Center for Investigative Reporting at Boston University; Maddy Corson, former chairman of Guy Gannett Communications; Chris Harte, newspaper executive; Adam Hochschild, author of six books; Robert A. G. Monks, shareholder activist and former U.S. Senate candidate; Barbara Walsh, former Portland Press Herald reporter; Warren Watson, executive director of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers and former managing editor of the Press Herald; and Gordon Weil, an energy company official and Kennebec Journal columnist.
With all those heavy hitters to rely on, here’s hoping the center soon has a budget that will allow it to expand its sporadic offerings and pay its reporters.
The fax on Max: In response to numerous e-mails asking the same question: Yes, the Max Monks working as a reporting intern this summer at the Portland Press Herald is the son of Robert C.S. Monks, a board member of and investor in the newspaper’s parent company.
If that’s nepotism, it’s not the first case of it at the paper. Ryan Blethen, grandson of CEO Frank Blethen, worked as a reporter at the Press Herald, back when it was owned by the Seattle Times Co., as part of his training for executive duties.
If young Monks is planning a similar career in journalism, he’d best stay away from covering politics or resign himself to always having his byline followed by a lengthy disclaimer mentioning the thousands of dollars he’s donated in recent years to Democratic candidates.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.