A Little Late
By Al Diamon
Created Dec 18 2007 - 10:53pm
You'd have to be a careful reader to have caught it. Near the end of a Dec. 16 newspaper story on Plum Creek Timber Co.'s plans to build a resort and housing near Moosehead Lake was some information that should have been publicized a long time ago.
The story appeared in the Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel - three publications owned by the Blethen Maine Newspapers. For nearly two years, the papers have been reporting and editorializing about Plum Creek's proposal. The plan has been controversial since its introduction in April 2005, eliciting strong responses from supporters and opponents and even instances of vandalism. But it wasn't until environmental reporter John Richardson's story on a Dec. 15 public hearing in Portland by the Land Use Regulation Commission that readers learned Blethen has an apparent conflict of interest involving Plum Creek.
Incongruously attached to the end of the public-hearing piece was a long paragraph detailing the role of a top Plum Creek official in the papers' management. According to Richardson, "Plum Creek's president and chief executive officer, Rick Holley, serves on the boards of directors of two companies affiliated with [the Maine newspapers]." Richardson said Holley is a director of both the Blethen Corp. and the Seattle Times Co. STC owns the Blethen Maine Newspapers. Blethen Corp. owns a majority share of STC. The story notes that the Maine papers have their own board of directors, but Holley isn't a member.
A Google search turned up only one other reference to Holley's connection to Blethen, a brief mention as part of Holley's biography on Plum Creek's Web site. This appears to be the first time a newspaper in Maine has published this information.
It seems unlikely that one member of its parent company's board could have a significant influence on Blethen's local coverage on the other side of the continent. But the Maine papers' tardiness in alerting their readers to Holley's involvement in their business and the lack of prominence of that notification calls into question their credibility.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.