Down East 2013 ©
Journalism contest? What journalism contest? The Maine Press Association gave out its annual awards last weekend, but you wouldn’t know it if you looked in the Maine Sunday Telegram or Portland Press Herald. The Blethen-owned newspapers in Portland ignored the results.
To the best of my recollection, such a snub is unprecedented. The Portland papers usually devote plenty of space to informing their readers about all the MPA plaques they took home, although they do have a tendency to skip over those that went to the competition.
This year, Press Herald and Telegram columnist Bill Nemitz, editorial cartoonist Steve Meyers and sports writer Steve Solloway all captured first-place honors, so you might think that would merit a mention. But it didn’t. Not in print. Not online.
Could this omission have something to do with the rival Lewiston Sun Journal sweeping the “Newspaper of the Year” category for both daily and Sunday papers? Could it be the result of the Portland papers failure to finish second in either category? Or third?
Is the editorial staff at the Telegram and Press Herald really that petty?
The Sun Journal ran two stories: one on Russ Dillingham, a Lewiston photographer, being named Journalist of the Year; the other on the awards the Lewiston paper received, with some mention of honors given to other publications .
The Morning Sentinel in Waterville and the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, both also owned by Blethen,  ran brief stories mentioning Lewiston’s victory and noting the awards their staffers won.
The Bangor Daily News, which also got smoked in the major awards categories, devoted a full page to listing those who did win (although not online; for that you’ll have to go to the Maine Press Association’s Web site). 
Marrison said the six-month old deal to swap stories, similar to one just started by several Maine dailies, had not reduced competition. “We hate each other,” he joked.
Apparently not as much as the Press Herald and Telegram hate losing.
Speaking of story swapping: Editor & Publisher has an interesting piece on how newspapers are doing more content sharing, in order to put pressure on the Associated Press to rescind its new rate structure. 
Among those quoted is Sun Journal editor Rex Rhoades, who expressed interest in replacing the AP’s national and international coverage with news from big newspaper chains and Web sites such as Politco.com.
“I would be interested in cobbling something together,” said Rhoades, noting that even though his AP bill will go down about $10,000 next year because of the new structure, the wire service will still cost the Lewiston daily about $157,000 annually. By comparison, news from the McClatchy-Tribune chain runs about $10,000. Rhoades said the day may soon arrive when story-swapping deals among newspapers – already being tried in Idaho, Ohio, Florida and Washington – are extended nationwide.
Outta here: Working for the Costello family, the owners of the Sun Journal and numerous Maine weeklies, isn’t all peaches and MPA awards. It can also involve a lot of long hours and aggravation, according to a recent blog posting by former Franklin Journal editor Mike Peterson. 
Peterson recently left the Costello-owned Journal for the editorship of a New Hampshire weekly. He writes that when Costello bought the paper earlier this year, he was left doing three jobs: his own, the former publisher’s and the editing of a Costello bi-weekly in Rangeley.
“This left me with all those new tasks and no backup,” he said. “Hence the 60-hour, six-day weeks that expanded to seven days often enough.”
(Disclosure: My political column ran in the Franklin Journal in 2007 in the early days of Peterson’s editorship.)
Geopolitical problems: The Press Herald and Sunday Telegram dumped most of their experienced political reporters through layoffs and buyouts earlier this year, leaving the papers with little institutional memory. And in need of geography lessons.
According to a story by staff writer Tom Bell in the Oct. 12 Telegram, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tom Allen “is spending the entire weekend in the 2nd District. He was in Gardiner on Saturday.” 
Gardiner is in Maine’s 1st Congressional District.
From a story by reporter Justin Ellis in the Oct. 13 Press Herald, in which he attempts to find parallels between the political careers of 1st District congressional candidates Chellie Pingree and Charlie Summers: “[Pingree] and Summers found themselves working in Washington, D.C., after their time in the Legislature … Now both Pingree and Summers hope their return to Washington will come courtesy of the voters.” 
It’s a stretch to say Summers worked in Washington. After an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1994, he became state director for U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe in 1995, a job that was based firmly in Maine.
Nice tries: The weak coverage of legislative races by Maine dailies offers readers little insight as to who might be ahead in key contests. Now there’s a way to get that information. The Web site Politicker ME.com is running county-by-county analyses of every state House and Senate contest. So far, Politicker has weighed in on House match-ups in the six northernmost counties, with more races being added daily. 
The reports appear to rely heavily on information from party activists and pundits, some of whom seem to have little idea what’s happening on the ground, particularly in the more remote districts. As a consequence, the ratings of a few races seem skewed. But, in general, this is a solid effort that deserves praise.
Among the new pieces of information Skelton uncovers are hints about the identities of two of the eight anonymous minority owners of the gambling facility. Casino officials have repeatedly refused to identify these junior partners in the gaming venture.
Thanks to Skelton’s digging, we now know that both former Republican legislator Stavros Mendros and ex-Green Independent Party organizer Ben Chipman seem to hold more than a passing interest in the Oxford County casino.
Blog clogged: T. Cushing Munjoy, the pseudonymous ex-blogger and continuing critic of the Press Herald, e-mails with some insights on the paper’s staff bloggers:
“Is anyone AT ALL paying attention (either inside 390 Congress or out) to Still Editor Guttman's heralded PPH staff blogging initiative?
“To wit: the Dow was north of 11,000 the last time Eric Blom (Knowing Maine's Business), Ray Routhier (Dad on a Dime), Bob Keyes (The Artful Blogger), AndyMan Russell (Behind IN the News) and John Richardson (Down to Earth) put any of their index fingers to the keyboard. Not a single blog from any of these Internet-era journalists since September. And the Beijing Olympics have been over for two months, but there's Mike Lowe smiling weirdly at readers in the top spot on the blog page.
“As for reader interest in these non-blogs I invite you to review the comments. You decide. Blom's dreadful efforts have produced two responses - total - since July … Dismal stats for the rest.
“And here's what lazy, dopey Russell wrote in August when he unfortunately 'restarted' his dormant blog: 
“‘So for the past several months - since May, actually - the blog has been on hiatus. And there have been other issues to contend with, as regular readers of our newspaper well know. The recent layoffs and employee buyouts have necessitated major changes in the way we approach and cover the news.
“‘In reviving this blog, I hope to give readers some insight into how Maine's largest independent news staff practices journalism at a time when newspapers across the country are battling to survive.’
“Nearly two months later he has mustered but three more bits of painful dimwittedness.”
Come back, Munjoy, we miss you.