How Maine Media Missed the Primary Election News
Missing the fire: On June 9, the morning after Maine’s primary election, the Lewiston Sun Journal ran an editorial – obviously written before the polls closed – that carried the headline, “Candidates failed to fire up primary voters.”
The piece claimed the campaign had been “placid by national standards” and that it “failed to generate much electoral energy.” It concluded, “Voters are mad all right, but not necessarily at Augusta or at statewide candidates.” It claimed the public was “disappointed” and may have “given up.” The piece also assumed Secretary of State Matt Dunlap’s prediction of a low turnout was accurate.
First of all, Dunlap’s turnout forecasts are nearly always wrong. Somebody in the news media should have noticed by now that Maine hasn’t had a secretary of state who had a clue how many people were going to vote since Rodney Quinn left office in the late 1980s.
Second, this editorial indicates the writer isn’t getting out enough. It regurgitates all the clichés from ill-informed sources, mostly political science professors, that passed for news gathering during this campaign. Just because it’s mentioned on TV or printed in a newspaper or indicated in a poll (most of which proved to be as accurate as Dunlap) doesn’t make the alleged apathy of the electorate a fact.
It might be worth spending a little time on the streets before drawing conclusions about what people are thinking.
As is now common knowledge, the turnout in this year’s Republican primary was the highest in more than half a century.
An obviously energized voting bloc propelled Waterville Mayor Paul LePage to the GOP gubernatorial nomination over several better-financed and better-known candidates.
The Sun Journal editorial staff missed it, but so did virtually everyone else in the media (including me). The clues were there: LePage’s overwhelming showing at the GOP state convention, the sizable undecided numbers in polls even after Les Otten and Bruce Poliquin spent millions of dollars on television, the grassroots efforts on LePage’s behalf that any reporter (or editorial writer) who bothered to cover the grassroots might have noticed.
All overlooked. Or ignored. Easier to go with the flow and assume there were no frontrunners in either party. In fact, the opposite was true. LePage and Democrat Libby Mitchell built up substantial leads in the final two weeks before election day. The media just missed all that, noticing only once the votes had been counted.
Or, in the case of the Sun Journal editorial page, sometime well after that.
Missing the meaning: Kennebec Journal staff writer Ethan Wilensky-Lanford wrote the turnout story referenced above. In the version published in the KJ and Morning Sentinel, it contained this sentence:
“LePage's volunteers also handed out brochures compelling people to veto tax reform.”
Compelling? It’s one thing when Wilensky-Lanford doesn’t seem to know what that word means. It’s another that his editors don’t, either.
In the Portland Press Herald, the word was changed to “urging,” which made for less compelling – but more accurate – reading.
Won’t be missing the music: According to North East Radio Watch, WTUX (101.1 FM) in Gouldsboro has been doing some testing and the station, formerly WLEK, will soon be on the air broadcasting programming from WTOS (105.1 FM) in Skowhegan. That will give TOS a three-station network (it’s also at 96.7 FM) stretching from Portland well up the coast and north of Bangor.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.