Talk about irony. Portland Press Herald environmental reporter John Richardson's May 17 column was headlined "McKin gone but not forgotten." But something appears to have been forgotten. Or ignored.
The column related the tangled history of one of Maine's first Superfund hazardous waste sites, the McKin Co. in Gray. From the 1960s to the mid-1970s, McKin improperly disposed of industrial waste from about 400 area businesses, school districts and municipalities, polluting 50 residential wells and creating an environmental nightmare. Eventually, the entities that shipped waste to McKin paid over $20 million to clean up the site and another $4.5 million to settle claims by landowners.
On the occasion of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's five-year review of McKin's final clean-up in 2002 (apparently, the EPA's math is a little off), Richardson does a good job summarizing these events and showing how this mess resulted in improved state laws to regulate waste disposal. Where he doesn't do such impressive work is in failing to note that one of the companies that shipped pollutants to McKin was the then-owner of the Portland Press Herald.
Guy Gannett Publishing, which sold the paper to the Blethen Maine Newspapers a decade ago, had a spotty record of admitting its involvement in the story back when the extent of the damage was still being uncovered and reported. Once Gannett paid off its share of the damages, the Press Herald stopped mentioning its role altogether,
with editors arguing it no longer had a conflict of interest because it was no longer involved. Apparently, that's still the policy under Blethen.
Either that or there's a memory problem.
Talk about old. The Lewiston Sun Journal must have been desperate for a story to fill a hole on the front page of the May 17 paper. Political reporter Rebekah Metzler reached back over two weeks to dredge up a piece on U.S. Rep. Tom Allen refusing to debate Tom Ledue, his little-known rival in the Democratic primary U.S. Senate primary. This was news back when the Web site PolitickerME.com reported it on April 28.
It still had some informational value when it turned up in newspapers and on TV on April 29. And it might still have held some legitimate journalistic interest when Metzler finally got to it, if she'd bothered to come up with any new information. But she didn't.
Same problem, different paper. The Bangor Daily News finally noticed the intriguing story in the May 8 Republican Journal about how the federal Department of Homeland Security wants to use the old Waldo-Hancock Bridge
for unspecified testing as to how terrorists might attack such a structure. The Bangor paper repeated the same information in a May 17 article, without discovering anything different - or crediting the Belfast weekly as its source.
Talk about bad headlines. I'm almost as late with this one as the Bangor and Lewiston papers in the previous item, but the May 11 Maine Sunday Telegram offered up a case study in how not to write a headline. A featured story in the Maine/New England section was burdened with this: "Quebec's big bash not a big deal here."
If the 400th anniversary of the founding of Quebec City isn't important to Mainers, why is the paper wasting time and space doing this story?
If it is important, why use a headline that says it isn't?
pressherald.mainetoday.com/archives (No longer available online for free)
Talk about good ideas. Hey, a news story in the mainstream media with a little attitude. The Lewiston Sun Journal of May 18 carried a front-page story on the political turmoil in Rumford,
where the selectmen are firing each other, chopping down municipal trees and driving the town manager out of town. Rather than simply rehash what it had already reported, the Journal turned editorial page editor Anthony Ronzio loose to present what it called "analysis," but what harkened back to the kind of advocacy journalism practiced by Maine Times in its heyday. Ronzio's piece had a slant to it, but it was a bias backed up by solid reporting and balanced by a reasonable attempt to present all sides, even the crazy ones. Informative. Entertaining. Good fodder for conversation over Bloody Marys at Sunday brunch. More, please. Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.