Conservative News Site Debuts – to Yawn
Not quite right: The Maine Heritage Policy Center, the Portland-based conservative think tank, put its new news site, the Maine Wire, online on Dec. 13. The debut offerings were short on scoops and long on ideology, with a distinct right-wing slant to most of the postings.
The Wire is staffed by Terrilyn Simpson, an award-winning journalist with a controversial past. Since leaving Courier Publishing in the late 1990s in a dispute over editing of her expose on the paper industry, Simpson has operated a website called Common Sense Independent that has been critical of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services handling of child custody cases.
The other reporter is Leif Parsell, a recent college grad.
The initial offerings from the Wire are heavy on the controversy at MaineHousing, but offer virtually nothing that hasn’t been reported elsewhere. There’s some video of liberals saying nothing very interesting. A political cartoon. A column by M.D. Harmon on the media’s left-wing bias. And an unedited press release from House Assistant Majority Leader Andre Cushing announcing his candidacy for the state Senate. Like the lazy mainstream media’s treatment of such notices, the Wire doesn’t bother to tell its readers who else is running or what Cushing’s prospects might be.
Considering that the center had both time and money to invest in this enterprise, I expected it to produce more than just the ideological opposite of the New Maine Times, minus the poetry and arts reviews.
If the Wire is going to accomplish the goal that center executive director Lance Dutson set for it in his initial editorial – to be a “motivating force for the rest of Maine’s press to drop the pro-government bias and get back to the business of reporting the news,” it has a long way to go.
Speaking of which: Portland Press Herald staff writer John Richardson did some first-rate work in his Dec. 13 story examining the causes of the budget shortfall at the state Department of Health and Human Services. Contrary to statements by Republican Gov. Paul LePage and his staff, most of the red ink seems to be the result of “budgeting miscalculations” and “inaccurate assumptions,” according to Richardson’s astute analysis of a report prepared by the administration. LePage had blamed the deficit on faster-than-expected growth in MaineCare registrations, but that factor proved to be relatively minor in causing the $123 million problem.
No “pro-government bias” is evident in Richardson’s article, so I’m sure Dutson and the Heritage Policy Center will approve.
Pine Tree’s new home: The recently moribund Pine Tree Politics blog of Matthew Gagnon has relocated to the Bangor Daily News’ website, where Gagnon promises more postings and no restraints from his mainstream media landlord on his outspoken opinions.
PTP was a major source of news in last year’s elections, and if this move restores it to prominence ahead of the 2012 campaigns, that will be a positive development for public understanding of the process.
The Bangor paper’s hosting of Gagnon’s site may be part of a trend. Political scientist Amy Fried posted a comment on PTP saying she was considering a similar move for her blog.
MaineToday’s tomorrows: There’s a lot of buzz in journalistic circles about the future of MaineToday Media, owner of the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. According to a knowledgeable source at the company, there will be a major development before the end of the year, although the source refused to say of what sort, mostly because the situation at the financially troubled company is fluid and “could go either way.”
Asked what “either way” meant, the source refused to comment.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.