Down East 2013 ©
Read the opinion page first: I like the new attitude on the editorial pages of the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and the Kennebec Journal in Augusta. I like it a lot.
Somebody, probably opinion page editor Naomi Schalit, has injected some life into the sister papers’ approach to endorsing candidates. No longer are the Sentinel’s and KJ’s announcements of who they think their readers should vote for the usual mix of bland platitudes. This political season, the endorsements – and rejections – come with plenty of bite.
In an Oct. 8 piece backing the re-election of Democratic state Sen. Lisa Marrache of Waterville, the Sentinel dismissed her opponent, Republican Brent Hutchins of Albion for “only barely” operating a campaign. 
“[H]e’s likely to be steamrolled by the Democratic machine in the district,” the editorial said, “of which Marrache is an increasingly prominent member.”
Not that the paper is overly enthusiastic about the incumbent. While acknowledging Marrache’s strong role in health-care legislation, the endorsement also notes “her lack of expertise” on issues that come before the Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee, where she serves as chairwoman. It blames her weak performance, “combined with the opposition of powerful Senate Democrats who are her patrons,” for the defeat of legislative ethics reform.
This is the sort of truth that rarely makes it into the Sentinel’s news stories.
The same day, the papers also endorsed Republican state Rep. Ken Fletcher of Winslow for another term, but in something less than wholehearted terms.
While calling Fletcher “diligent, informed and moderate,” the editorial also found him to hold “middle-of-the road, unremarkable positions designed to please everyone.” And the endorsement didn’t shy away from the legislator’s questionable relationship with a lobbyist who often testifies before the Utilities and Energy Committee, on which he sits, saying it “puts Fletcher in a position of appearing to benefit from the assistance of someone who seeks Fletcher’s support in the Legislature.”
If only the papers’ candidate profiles were this candid.
While calling Mitchell “a smart and aggressive old-style politician in the guise of a Southern grandmother,” the editorial accuses her and the rest of Democratic leadership of ignoring the state’s high income tax rate. As for GOP opponent Kim Davis, she “doesn’t offer much more of a platform than complaints that Democrats are anti-business and pro-tax.”
Real opinions. Real information. Real nice to see.
Another reason to read the opinion page first: Lewiston Sun Journal editorial page editor Tony Ronzio gave notice on Oct. 8 that, while he’s sympathetic to efforts to build a casino in Oxford County, he isn’t about to be steamrolled by the developer’s vague promises. 
Rather than accept Olympia Gaming’s claim that the admittedly huge problems with the gambling bill on the November ballot can somehow be fixed by the Legislature sometime next year, Ronzio challenged the company to produce a revised and corrected bill before the public votes.
“Gambling is Olympia’s business, but not the business of voters,” he wrote. “Let’s see its preferred casino bill, before Election Day.”
Considering the Sun Journal sells a lot of papers in pro-casino Oxford County, this is a gutsy stand.
Fewer people reading anything: Here are a couple more filings with the U.S. Postal Service on the latest newspaper circulation figures.
The Morning Sentinel is hanging in there. Almost. Paid circulation declined from an average of 18,193 per issue in 2007 to 17,768 in 2008, a drop-off of just over 2 percent. That’s among the best showings by a Maine daily this year. 
The Maine Sunday Telegram saw nearly 3,600 readers disappear over the last 12 months. Average sales fell from 100,104 per week in ’07 to 96,520 in ’08, a 3.6 percent decline. Copies of the Telegram distributed but not sold jumped 8.5 percent in the past year.
Getting what readers read right: Is there some rule that daily papers don’t have to correct mistakes in stories posted on their Web sites? Most Maine papers seem to operate as if there is.
The Portland Press Herald is an exception. It routinely runs a notice of a correction on its home page, fixes the erroneous information in the original story and makes it clear at the top of each corrected Web page that it’s made changes.
This is the way it’s supposed to be done.
Not only do the Press Herald’s sister papers, the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal, not run most corrections on the Web, they don’t always revise online stories containing errors. The Oct. 9 print edition of the papers carried a correction about the record-setting price of a revolver sold at a Maine auction, but I couldn’t find similar information on either paper’s site. And the original Oct. 8 story was still up there this afternoon with the wrong amount prominently listed. 
The Bangor Daily News seems to have a similar non-policy.
This is the way it’s not supposed to be done.
The Lewiston Sun Journal corrects errors in online stories, but it doesn’t make note of that fact on the page and often doesn’t run notices of corrections on its Web site.
An Oct. 8 story about hospitals getting shortchanged by the state Medicaid system had a misattributed quote reassigned to the right person by the next day on the Web site, but without any notation that a change had been made. 
A correction in the Oct. 9 print edition didn’t show up online and didn’t include the precise quote that was assigned to the wrong person, leaving devotees of dead-tree journalism without a clue as to who said what.
Did I read that right?: On Oct. 9. the Portland Press Herald’s Web site featured a headline that read:
The story came nowhere near to living up to expectations.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.