MaineToday Media Accused Of Bias By GOP
The Maine Republican Party sent out an email alert on April 3 claiming the MaineToday Media newspapers (Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel) were acting as state Rep. Cynthia Dill’s “personal PR machine.”
Dill, a Democrat from Cape Elizabeth, attempted unsuccessfully last week to introduce a measure in the Legislature to amend the state Constitution to allow voters to recall a sitting governor. After her proposal, which she insisted was not aimed at GOP Gov. Paul LePage, was set aside indefinitely by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, Dill set up an online petition at a site run by the liberal activist group MoveOn.org.
The MaineToday papers ran brief stories on the number of people who’d “signed” the e-document on both April 3 and April 4, including Dill’s claim that her effort “just went viral.” The only significant difference between the two articles was that on April 3, the petition had over eight thousand supporters and by the next day, the figure was above ten thousand.
Among the Republicans’ gripes were that the stories didn’t mention MoveOn.org’s involvement and neglected to say that Dill is currently running for a vacant state Senate seat. The GOP could also have complained that the news pieces didn’t make it clear that anyone can sign on, even if they aren’t a registered voter in Maine. A quick check of the names listed on the site found supporters claiming to be from Tennessee, Wisconsin, Alabama, California and North Carolina. There were also several signers who gave only their first names and a few who used obvious pseudonyms.
Whether these omissions constitute political bias at MaineToday is far from clear. Given the numerous examples of sloppy reporting at the Press Herald and the other papers cited in this blog and other sources over the past few years, it’s entirely possible that this less-than-complete coverage is the result of ineptness. That doesn’t excuse it, but it does call into question the GOP’s claim that the MaineToday papers are a “tool” of the Democratic Party. In fact, MTM editorials have supported LePage’s positions on several occasions, and the papers’ news coverage of political issues has displayed no obvious skewing that I’ve been able to detect.
That would seem to undermine the email’s claim “that the Maine Media is (sic) often biased against us,” a frequently voiced complaint from partisans of all stripes. What it usually means is the media isn’t biased in our favor.
That said, there’s a legitimate question as to why the MaineToday papers felt it necessary to run two nearly identical stories on this subject on consecutive days. Based on experience, I’m inclined to attribute that decision to poor editorial judgment (a frequent problem at MTM), rather than a sinister political plot.
Nevertheless, it might be helpful if MaineToday CEO Richard Connor used his Sunday column to address this issue, instead of wasting the space demonstrating how little he knows or understands about the firing of University of Maine women’s basketball coach Cindy Blodgett.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.