Down East 2013 ©
Swap slop: How’s the new story-swapping arrangement among the Bangor Daily News, the Portland Press Herald, the Lewiston Sun Journal, the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel working? After one week, it’s difficult to say. The article-sharing deal has given readers better-than-average newspapers on some days and well-below-acceptable ones on others.
It’s almost as if the editors at the various papers can’t decide whether the deal deserves a lot of their attention or none at all.
On the plus side, the Sun Journal did a fine job on Sept. 25 in sending its own reporter to Portland to cover the verdict in the Long Lake manslaughter trial  and supplementing that coverage by running the Press Herald’s excellent sidebar on one juror’s experience in deciding the case. 
This swap gave the Lewiston paper’s readers a local perspective in the main story, as well as the added value and insight of Portland staff writer David Hench’s peek into the jury room.
The two papers shared stories on the same subject the following day, with both running Hench’s report on the chances the defendant would be retried on some charges,  and the Sun Journal’s M. Dirk Langeveld covering reaction from family, friends and neighbors. 
Again, readers were well served.
Less impressive was the way the sharing arrangement narrowed the coverage of the Land Use Regulation Commission’s decision on Plum Creek’s proposed development near Moosehead Lake. The Press Herald, which had regularly sent reporters to most proceedings involving this enormous plan, opted to rely on the Bangor paper’s report on Sept. 25, as did its sister papers, the KJ and Sentinel. While Bangor reporter Kevin Miller’s story was competent, it’s likely that a second (or third) set of eyes and ears would have provided a few extra details worth adding to the public’s knowledge on an issue of considerable importance.
Twice in this lengthy piece, Telegram reporter Mark Wickenheiser referred to the town of Jay as being in Oxford County. It’s actually in Franklin County. The Sun Journal picked up the article and ran it without correction, even though both Oxford and Franklin counties are in its primary coverage area. (This piece doesn’t appear to be on the Lewiston paper’s Web site.) It’s almost as if the Sun Journal’s editors, who – one would think – would know their own territory, didn’t bother to read the story before deciding to fill up space with it.
Finally, there’s the inexplicable. The Bangor paper didn’t bother to use the Portland paper’s solid scoop on Sept. 26 on how Wall Street turmoil was preventing the state of Maine from selling bonds to pay for road and bridge repairs. 
Lewiston ran the Press Herald story in its print editions, but not online. Instead, its Web site offered a somewhat contradictory Bangor story on how the market’s troubles were unlikely to affect Maine. 
If story swapping is going to produce more than filler for Maine’s dailies, editors need to start paying attention and treating all articles from other papers thoughtfully – and a little skeptically.
Error mirror: On Sept. 23, the Times Record in Brunswick ran an editorial based on an erroneous premise. It chastised the political action committee Fed Up With Taxes for running radio spots critical of the wording of Question 1 on the November ballot. The referendum calls for a “yes” vote if someone is opposed to new taxes on beer, wine and soda, and a “no” vote if supportive.
“The folks who sponsor the ad are the same people who came up with the wording for the ballot question,” the editorial said. “Are they confused by their own words?”
On Sept. 26, the paper corrected itself, admitting it was the Secretary of State’s Office, not the petitioners, who authored the confusing question. 
Fair enough. Or it would have been if that’s where it had ended.
To date, the Portland paper hasn’t bothered to run a correction. Maybe it could fit it into this coming Saturday’s collection of other papers’ editorials.
Disclaim shame: Just when I thought the Blethen Maine Newspapers had finally come to terms with their conflict of interest on the Plum Creek development story (the president of Plum Creek sits on the boards of the parent companies of the Press Herald, KJ and Sentinel), they allowed another ethical lapse. This time, it’s the Sept. 28 Sunday Telegram editorial calling the compromise deal allowing most of the project to proceed “workable.”
No mention of the conflict.
No learning curve.
No Snowe: Just when I had started to think PolitickerME.com’s pseudonymous commentator “Wally Edge” was an actual Mainer, he tells his readers, “Maine hasn't elected a Republican Congressman since 1994, when James Longley beat Dennis Duttremble 52%-48% for the seat Olympia Snowe gave up to run for the U.S. Senate.” 
Not only does “Edge” misspell Dutremble, he also has Snowe representing the 1st Congressional District. For the record, “Wally,” she was from the 2nd District back then. In ’94, the southern part of the state was the domain of Democratic U.S. Rep. Tom Andrews.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.