Maine Newspapers Overdose On Blodgett Firing
Nothing but air: I admit right up front that I’m not much of a fan of women’s college basketball in general and the University of Maine program in particular. So, there’s a chance my lack of interest in the sport is skewing my view of the reporting on the recent firing of UMaine coach Cindy Blodgett.
But I don’t think so.
I’ve rarely seen any story that didn’t involve war, natural disasters, or other heavy loss of life receive the all-out coverage that Blodgett’s dismissal got. On March 30, the Bangor Daily News devoted three lengthy news stories (one at the top of the front page and two more at the top of the sports page), as well as a column to the topic.
There was also an editorial and a postmortem after Blodgett’s own press conference on March 31. And yet another column. In all, the Bangor Daily devoted several thousand words and a ton of staff time to a story of limited interest and dubious importance.
When Dr. Dora Anne Mills, one of the state’s key figures in health care, was fired in February as medical director of the MaineCare program, the Bangor editors ran one story. When Denise Lord, the influential associate commissioner of the state Department of Corrections, was dismissed last month, the Portland Press Herald ran a brief. The Bangor Daily didn’t even do that.
While the BDN took the award for wretched excess in its Blodgett coverage, the rest of the media deserve dishonorable mentions for running the story above the fold on the front page and at the top of newscasts, while more significant events – the state budget, the governor’s antics, the war in Libya – got lesser play. Or none at all: the Bangor paper didn’t carry a story about Gov. Paul LePage’s unusual decision to go on vacation in the midst of a legislative session until a day after nearly everyone else – and then, only as a brief buried in the local section.
Somebody’s news judgment is seriously out of line. As I noted above, it could be mine, but I don’t think so.
Nothing but Ayers: Earlier this week, I took the Lewiston Sun Journal to task for running a press release as if it were a news story. The release announcing a lecture in Farmington by ‘60s radical William Ayers left out significant information, including any mention of the speaker’s controversial past. At least one other media outlet, the Daily Bulldog (disclosure: my weekly political column runs there), made the same mistake, but redeemed itself when it covered the event, providing a more balanced view of Ayers’ career.
How did the Sun Journal do?
While the rival Morning Sentinel sent a reporter, the Lewiston paper didn’t bother.
Apparently, the editors saw no reason to set the record straight.
Nor has the Sun Journal altered its policy of publishing press releases verbatim without informing readers where the material came from. The paper’s April 1 edition carried a piece about “loveable, huggable Barney,” the purple dinosaur, scheduling an appearance in Lewiston. The article, which received a prominent tease at the top of the front page, was clearly the work of a publicist, right down to the trademark symbols after the names of each of Barney’s pals and its information on how to obtain “Dino seat packages.”
Now, if only the paper could get a flack to write its Cindy Blodgett coverage, too.
(I’d provide a link go the Barney “story,” but the Sun Journal’s Web site is currently down.)
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.