Just when it appeared the Blethen Maine Newspapers - the Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel - had awoken from their ethical snooze and decided to be clear about their conflict of interest in covering Plum Timber Co., it turned out to be nap time again. As reported here earlier this week,
the Maine papers have recently neglected to inform readers that Rick Holley, the president and chief executive officer of Plum Creek, sits on the boards of two of Blethen's parent companies. But after my rant appeared, the disclaimer about Holley reappeared for the first time in weeks in coverage May 28 of the state Land Use Regulation Commission's public hearing on Plum Creek's plans to build a huge development near Moosehead Lake.
Unfortunately, this new moral stand lasted exactly one day. The May 29 coverage of the hearing's second session carried no disclaimer.
This isn't a minor omission. Holley's board membership is a significant conflict for Blethen, whether he exerts any control over the news and editorial pages of the Maine papers or not. (Blethen officials have said he does not.) In covering a controversial story, such as this one, no self-respecting media outlet should risk leaving itself open to charges of having a hidden bias - even for one day. The disclaimer should be a permanent fixture until Blethen sells the papers or Holley leaves the boards.
The Associated Press in Maine could put a little more effort into its reporting. The brief AP story (sorry, it doesn't seem to be online) on May 29 on the formation of a coalition to oppose the repeal of new taxes to fund the Dirigo health insurance program was lacking significant details. According to the wire service, the group includes "doctors, seniors and others" in favor of higher taxes on beer, wine and soda. Anyone wanting to know the identity of those mysterious "others" should check out the Web site PolitickerME.com, which ran a detailed piece on the political heavyweights who have assembled to preserve the Dirigo funding.
And Politicker did it a day before the AP's superficial coverage appeared.Disappearing memory:
I'm informed by a reliable source that the late Bill Clark has once again been passed over for inclusion in the Maine Press Association's hall of fame.
Clark, who was a columnist for the Kennebec Journal and its sister papers for over 30 years until his death in 1988, contributed enormously to his readers' understanding of Maine during his lifetime. This year marks at least the third time the hall-of-fame committee has considered his name, but failed to elect him, primarily because some members said they weren't familiar with his work. That a writer of that quality has been so thoroughly forgotten by not only the public, but also by his alleged colleagues reflects poorly on the collective memory of the newspaper industry in this state.Disappearing letter
: During Sea Dogs baseball games at Hadlock Field in Portland, it's not uncommon to hear kids taunting a struggling Double-A hurler with chants of, "We want a pitcher, not a belly-itcher." But I expected the team's Web site to show a little more respect for one of the top prospects in the Boston Red Sox farm system. Instead, the recap of the May 29 game refers to Portland's bullpen ace as "relief itcher Daniel Bard." Appearing publication:
I've long been a fan of Lincoln Peirce of Portland and his excellent comic strip "Big Nate."
What started out several years ago as one of the many clones of "Calvin and Hobbes" quickly found its own niche as a scruffy attempt to comprehend the world from the perspective of a fourth-grader with just enough grasp of life's finer points to be dangerous. Now, Peirce's wit has been preserved for posterity in a collection called "I Smell A Pop Quiz."
Buy it or I'll steal your identity and charge a copy to your credit card.
- Filed May 30, 2008Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com