Filed December 14, 2007
On WGME-TV's 5 p.m. report on Dec. 13, reporter Diana Ichton twice informed viewers that in late November, the Maine Public Utilities Commission had "rejected" the proposed sale of Verizon's telephone land lines to FairPoint Communications. Ichton then indicated the commissioners were now prepared to reconsider, because the two companies had submitted a revised plan.
In fact, the three commissioners hadn't rejected anything. They hadn't even considered anything. The proceeding Ichton was sent to Augusta to cover was supposed to be that consideration, but it was postponed after Verizon and FairPoint submitted a document meant to address concerns about the sale raised in November by the PUC staff.
Apparently, Ichton confused that staff report, which recommended the sale be rejected if significant alterations weren't made, with the commission's decision, which hasn't happened, yet.
Channel 13 devotes much of its newscasts to crime and accidents, but insists in its promotions that its strength is covering "breaking news." The PUC hearing certainly qualified as breaking news, although of a more complex variety than the station's usual assortment of convenience-store robberies and fender benders. Understanding the phone company sale enough to report on it accurately requires a reporter to have a grasp of the politics and procedures surrounding the commission and the two companies. Ichton didn't appear to have done her homework.
Her story was less breaking than broken.Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.