What Was Colby's Role
Echo sounds off: In its March 11 issue, the Echo, the student newspaper at Colby College in Waterville, uncovers new information on the firing of reporter Joel Elliott by the daily Morning Sentinel in January.
According to the story by Echo editor Chelsea Eakin and reporter Suzanne Merkelson, Sentinel editor Eric Conrad told Elliott that a Colby official – Ruth Jacobs, the associate director of communications – had asked that Elliott not be allowed to cover any events at the college. Jacobs was said to have made that request during a January lunch meeting with Sentinel city editor George Myers. Conrad told Elliott she had been speaking on behalf of the school, according to both Elliott and a representative of his union, the Newspaper Guild, who was present at his termination.
In the Echo story, Jacobs denied making that statement, saying she was only expressing her personal opinions on a number of Sentinel reporters. Jacobs’ boss, director of communication David Eaton, told the Echo that Colby had not requested that Elliott be fired. College president William D. Adams also told the paper the school was not involved.
But when asked by the Echo if Colby would request that its name be removed from Elliott’s letter of termination, Eaton said the college would not get involved in a personnel issue at the Sentinel.
Colby annually sponsors the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award, named for a 19th century Colby alumnus killed defending his printing press from a pro-slavery mob, to recognize journalists who have displayed great courage in practicing their profession. In an editorial, the Echo asks why a school that honors this tradition of the fearless pursuit of the truth would be hesitant to correct the record in this case.
(You have to register to view the editorial online.)
“As an institution that prides itself on supporting freedom of the press,” the editorial says, “why would the College sit back and allow its name to be used as one of the main reasons a qualified reporter is currently unemployed? What gives, Colby?”
Elliott is still fighting his firing. If that effort goes far enough through the legal system, college officials could someday find themselves answering those questions under oath.
Munjoy muzzled? The media rumor mill may be the only part of the industry that’s still operating at full capacity. The latest grist to be ground into thin meal involves a new theory as to why pseudonymous blogger T. Cushing Munjoy has been silent these past couple of weeks.
Munjoy has said he’s weary of pointing out the deficiencies of the Blethen Maine Newspapers in general and the Portland Press Herald in particular, and is taking a short vacation until new owners arrive. But according to a usually reliable source at Blethen, this leave of absence isn’t voluntary.
“Blethen went after Munjoy with some lawyers, first by going after Google,” the source said in an e-mail. “Blethen argues that Munjoy's long excerpts of Blethen content is (sic) some kind of infringement of its rights and threatened to file a lawsuit against Munjoy (and maybe Google) unless he stopped. So Munjoy stopped.”
Munjoy called that claim, “Ridiculous.”
In an e-mail, he said, “While it is the case that I have gotten all manner of hate mail (and anonymous threats) from the lame and the halt at 390 Congress Street who don't like what I've written, I haven't EVER gotten a single e-mail from anyone official (Blethen executive, law firm, lawyer, paralegal, secretary, administrative assistant, gofer) threatening to sue me. If I did, the VERY FIRST thing I would do is post it.”
As for the issue of excerpting material from the Blethen papers in order to criticize it, he wrote that he doubts the cash-strapped company would waste its limited resources on lawyers to harass a blogger doing what is common on the Web, particularly by threatening a wealthy entity such as Google.
Courts opened – a little: Cameras and microphones will be slightly more common in Maine courts in the future. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court has issued an order allowing video and audio coverage of a few legal proceedings that were previously off limits.
They include opening and closing statements by lawyers in criminal proceedings, judge’s instructions to juries and readings of verdicts. Bangor Daily News staff writer Judy Harrison has a story on the changes, along with some historical perspective, in the March 10 issue.
Some segments of the news media had also sought permission to record trial testimony by public officials, such as police officers, but the high court wasn’t prepared to go that far. Nor did the justices buy the arguments of other media outlets that any public proceeding in court should be open to cameras and recorders.
Electronic coverage of courts in Maine was completely banned until 1994, when the Supreme Court allowed video and audio recording of its proceedings (where there are no juries or witnesses) and some preliminary hearings in criminal cases.
Real story revealed: Bob Mentzinger’s weekly outdoor sports column “Happy Trails” in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel is a must read for anyone who cares about what’s really going on in the wilds of Maine. The March 11 edition is a particularly good one.
Mentzinger digs deep to explain what’s really happening at the nearly defunct Big Squaw ski resort near Greenville, where the owner recently pulled out of a deal with local economic-development officials to apply for a $200,000 state grant to repair his main chairlift (unused in several years) and improve snowmaking. Mentzinger’s experience and long memory provide much-needed context that was sadly lacking in a March 10 Bangor Daily News article on the same subject by staff writer Diana Bowley.
While Bowley merely reports what everyone involved has to say – the resort owner’s comments make it sound as if government red tape was the major reason he balked – Mentzinger gives enough history to allow readers to glimpse the complex dynamics behind this story – the owner, who’s from Florida, may have bailed out because he didn’t want to reveal who his investors are or what his bottom line looks like.
Nice work. As usual.
Getting smaller: The news hole at the Bangor Daily News shrunk this week. Business news now occupies the back page of the first section – it formerly took up two or three inside pages – and the reduced arts and lifestyle coverage now fronts what’s left of the classifieds, minus a page or so of its former space
On the bright side, the State section doesn’t appear to have been condensed, so there’s still a lot of local news compared to Maine’s other dailies. As compromises go, this isn’t the worst I’ve seen.
Sunny Times: The parent company of the Lewiston Sun Journal has “merged” with the Employment Times, a free weekly filled with help-wanted ads, according to a news release printed in the daily paper.
ET circulates 33,000 copies a week in Maine, southern New Hampshire and northern Massachusetts. It’s based in Auburn. The much-larger Sun Media Group publishes the daily paper and eight weeklies in southern and central Maine. Sun vice president Stephen Costello said the deal allows his company to offer “additional advertising options for Maine employers,” which is another way of saying they’re still looking for a way to compete with Craigslist.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.