Turning Maine Journalists Into Lobbyists
Dear Senator, Send Money: On May 18, Christine Sobiech, executive assistant to MaineToday Media CEO Richard Connor, sent an email to all the company’s employees, including reporters and editors who work for the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, and Morning Sentinel.
Sobiech suggested “those interested” send a letter to their legislators urging them to oppose efforts to reduce state spending by ending the practice of paying to place public notices in daily papers. Her email had a sample letter attached that included these talking points:
“Foremost, as an employee of MaineToday Media, I am concerned about the financial effect these proposals will have on me personally, and my industry, if they are adopted.”
“Our industry is slowly recovering from the recession, but this loss of this revenue from notices could eliminate jobs and/or reduce services to our valued advertising partners and to the communities we serve.”
“I urge you to vote against this provision in the budget, defend Maine's traditions of publishing public notices in newspapers and having an open and transparent government, and support the hard-working Maine men and women of the state's newspaper industry.”
I trust that no journalists, even ones who don’t normally cover state government or politics, would be stupid enough to take part in this effort. Requesting favors from legislators is problematic enough for management of a news organization. For employees involved in reporting and editing, it would create the appearance of a severe conflict of interest, calling into question whether future coverage of state senators and representatives would be skewed by whether they supported publishing public notices in daily papers.
A smarter company would never have put its employees in this position in the first place.
When down is up: A headline in the May 21 Morning Sentinel read, “Home-schooling on the rise for a good reason, say advocates.” Directly below it was a chart (it’s not included in the online version) that showed the number of home-schooled students in Maine has declined the past two years, with the total now below that of the 2005-2006 school year.
While the otherwise-solid article by staff writer Craig Crosby notes that home schooling is increasing nationally (thereby making the headline marginally accurate), it shrugs off this local discrepancy.
A good editor should have called Crosby on that. A good editor should have written a more accurate headline.
Don’t confuse us with facts: On May 22, the MaineToday Media papers ran a scathing editorial attacking Republican U.S. Senate candidate Scott D’Amboise and defending incumbent GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe.
The opinion piece accused D’Amboise of smearing Snowe with “a flat-out lie with absolutely no substantiation” concerning a lawsuit filed against a for-profit college company run by Snowe’s husband, John McKernan. McKernan currently serves as chairman of the board of that operation, but MTM’s diatribe makes much of the fact that he wasn’t in that position when the improper recruiting activities alleged in the suit were initiated.
True enough, except that as Gerald Weinand at the Dirigo Blue website pointed out the next day, McKernan was CEO of the company at the time.
To date, the MTM papers haven’t run a clarification, and I’m not holding my breath.
Radio noise: WPOR in Portland (101.9 FM) has a new member of its morning team to replace Joe Lerman, who was fired in April. He’s Jake Navarro, a veteran jock most recently employed at a station in Scranton, Pa. Navarro will co-host with holdovers Alisha Bolin and Jon Shannon.
Lerman, meanwhile, jumped to the morning-drive team at Portland’s WFNK (107.5 FM).
TV views: Portland has a new digital TV signal at channel 51.2. The station, owned by WPXT-TV’s parent company, is called ME-TV and features classic television shows, such “M*A*S*H” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”
In spite of its name, ME-TV doesn’t carry any local programming. The initials actually stand for Memorable Entertainment Television.
Mealtime mix-up: From the May 25 issue of the Original Irregular, a weekly newspaper in Kingfield:
“Mark your calendars for an all you can eat community breakfast at the Kingfield United Methodist Church on June 4. The last two breakfasts they’ve offered have been supper so don’t miss this one!”
Attendance might be better if they held them in the morning.
Bike accident: From a May 25 Associated Press story:
“A national bicycling organization says Maine is the second most bike-friendly state in the country.
“The League of American Bicyclists says Maine rose one spot in its 2011 list from its second-place ranking in 2010.”
Apparently, the best state is rated zero or something.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.