Error message: On April 15, the Kennebec Journal ran a story with the headline “Senator seeks a road to nowhere.”
The story was a straightforward piece of reporting that didn’t justify such a provocative bit of editorializing. It said state Sen. Troy Jackson of Allagash wanted to use federal stimulus money to fund an extension of Interstate 95 north of Houlton into the rest of Aroostook County.
Jackson was angered by the headline and issued a press release calling it “pure ignorance” to refer to the County as “nowhere.” He had a point, and apparently, the KJ editorial powers agreed. The headline of the online version of the story was changed to the more factual “Allagash senator seeks to extend I-95 farther into Aroostook County.” And I’m told a correction ran in the April 17 paper.
I’ll have to take the word of a reader that the paper actually apologized in print, because the KJ isn’t distributed in my part of the state, and the apology never showed up in its online edition. In fact, the KJ left the offending headline on its April 15 main page.
The KJ is hardly alone in committing this sort of transgression. With the exception of the Portland Press Herald, most Maine dailies (and a lot of weeklies) are way too casual about alerting online readers that they’ve made mistakes. While the Press Herald features all corrections in its daily story lineup on the home page of its Web site, as well as noting on the original stories that mistakes have been rectified, most other papers either do nothing at all about such errors or correct them without posting any notice they’ve done so.
It’s time for an ethics upgrade.
(And at the KJ, it might be time for a little refresher course in the difference between writing headlines for news stories and for editorials.)
Foreign exchange: An irate Maine Public Radio listner sent me an e-mail complaining about one of the network’s reporters.
“Is Tom Porter never going to be required to pronounce Maine town names correctly because he is British?” he asked.
Good question. For the record, Mr. Porter, Hebron is not pronounced Heb-bron, and you really ought to ask one of your co-workers how to say New Gloucester.
Conflict resolution: One of the arguments WGME-TV in Portland made for its ethically questionable decision to accept financing from the charitable foundation that was the subject of its series of reports last year from China is that there was no other way it could have gotten the story.
Eric at the Enterprise Report sends along this link, revealing that KSL-TV in Salt Lake City managed to cover much the same ground as WGME without the same conflict of interest.
All the same news as the Channel 13 series, minus the exotic locale. And minus the ethical shadow.
Don’t throw out the rabbit ears: Analog television won’t be vanishing from the airwaves in Maine this June after all. According to a story by reporter Steve Mistler in the Forecaster, Harpswell Community TV has received permission from the Federal Communications Commission to build a low-power television station to supplement its offerings on local cable. The new station will broadcast in analog.
HCTV has been trying for 12 years to get licensed to broadcast its mix of town board meetings and rants by disgruntled citizens over the air. The new license is for six years.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.