One Plus, One Minus for MaineToday Media
The plus: On March 8, the Portland Press Herald, which is owned by MaineToday Media, carried a story produced by the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting on legislative efforts to close an ethics loophole dealing with lawmakers whose companies or non-profit organizations did business with the state.
To the best of my knowledge, this marks the first time the Portland paper has published one of the center’s excellent investigative reports (although it hasn’t been shy about citing them in editorials). If this marks a turning point in relations between the center – run by John Christie, former publisher of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, and Naomi Schalit, ex-editorial page editor for those papers –and MTM, which bought both publications in 2009 and ousted the two of them, it’s a welcome development for both sides. The MaineToday papers will get quality in-depth stories, while the center will receive wider distribution of its important reports.
The past refusal of the MTM papers to carry the center’s work has always seemed to have more to do with personalities than journalism or finances. With the departure of MaineToday CEO Richard Connor and his executive editor, Scott Wasser, the personal side of the dispute would appear to be eliminated. And since the center’s work has been of consistently high quality and offered to news outlets at no cost, there’s no reason Press Herald readers, as well as those at the Sentinel and KJ, shouldn’t have ready access to this material.
The minus: Mainebiz reported on the story.
The Bangor Daily News reported on the story.
But when two Portland financial services companies announced a merger on March 8, the Press Herald and other MaineToday news outlets were silent. Which is strange because both businesses have close connections to MTM.
Ram Trust Services is owned by John Higgins, an investor in MaineToday, and Robert C.S. Monks, an investor and board member at MTM.
Spinnaker Trust manages the retirement accounts of MaineToday employees.
For most of the last two years, MTM has consistently ignored Monks’ role in stories it’s covered, although it has recently been doing a better job of disclosing the involvement of its investors, such as Donald Sussman. So, the lack of coverage of this bit of news could be due to something other than unethical motives. It could be a simple lack of initiative.
Whatever the cause, it should be corrected promptly to avoid the impression MaineToday has something to hide.
Private exit from public radio: Lou Morin, vice president of marketing and public relations for the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, has left that operation for reasons no one will discuss. Officially, Morin resigned shortly after he released Arbitron ratings for Maine radio stations to me in late January and then rescinded that release in a comment posted under the story.
While it’s not clear whether those actions precipitated his departure, it’s obvious from the comments on that posting that neither MPBN nor Arbitron were pleased those numbers were made public. Which is curious, because the ratings reflected well on public radio, and Arbitron, in a recent memo to its customers, specifically allowed the release of figures to the news media for listeners aged twelve and up.
Best of luck to Morin in his future endeavors, and I’ll be looking for a new source (anonymous, if that’s what it takes to keep your job) for future Arbitron numbers.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com.