Down East 2013 ©
Questions, denials, reactions: The case of Larry Grard, the reporter for the Morning Sentinel in Waterville who was fired last month, allegedly for sending an anti-same-sex-marriage e-mail to a gay rights group , has attracted national attention, mostly from conservative online news services .
After Grard received an e-mail on Nov. 4 from the Human Rights Campaign in Washington, D.C., that blamed the defeat of Maine’s gay marriage law on “lies and hate,” he sent the group a response that read, “Who are the hateful, venom-spewing ones? Hint: Not the yes on 1 crowd. You hateful people have been spreading nothing but vitriol since this campaign began. Good riddance!”
(Both Grard and his union, the Portland Newspaper Guild, said they did not have copies of his original e-mail, but this version of the text, which is consistent with what Grard said he wrote, was apparently released by an official at the Human Rights Campaign.)
Grard said his editor, Bill Thompson, was contacted by Trevor Thomas, the HRC’s deputy communications director. Grard said Thomas demanded he be fired, and on Nov. 10, he was. But Thomas, who had not responded to an earlier request for comment, sent out an e-mail to reporters on Dec. 8 denying that charge.
“At no time did I ask Larry to be fired,” Thomas wrote, “but instead had one email interaction with his editor where I said: ‘I received the below email this morning after our national media release was sent to your team. … It’s frankly, just not acceptable coming from a news organization the morning after our defeat.’”
Thomas said he had no further contact with Thompson, but wrote that the “management team” at the Sentinel told him the company was looking into the incident. He said he found out Grard had been fired from a reporter.
Meanwhile the Guild, which has filed for arbitration in the case, has been circulating a petition of support for Grard signed by his co-workers. According to union president Tom Bell, about forty people from the Portland Press Herald newsroom (the papers are owned by the same company) have signed, but another source said response from Sentinel staffers has been less enthusiastic.
It’s not clear if the ambivalent reaction is due to Grard’s position on same-sex marriage or other factors. His opposition to gay marriage was no secret to many of his co-workers, who noted that Grard’s name is listed on the Web site of the Maine Marriage Alliance  as a supporter of an amendment to the Maine Constitution defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Edition deletion: Waterville’s Morning Sentinel is now being printed at MaineToday Media’s printing and distribution facility in South Portland, according to a Dec. 8 story by staff writer Scott Monroe  that appears to downplay a couple of important developments.
Monroe wrote, “All of the employees whose jobs were affected by the move were offered positions at the South Portland facility.”
What he neglected to mention is that many of those workers opted not to take those new jobs, instead accepting buyouts. According to union and other sources, the shift to SoPo resulted in a significant decrease in the number of employees and a substantial savings in personnel costs for MaineToday.
Buried deep in the article was mention of another change that will also likely reduce corporate expenses. The Sentinel will no longer publish a separate edition for Skowhegan, Farmington, and northern parts of its circulation area. Since the paper isn’t increasing the size of its news hole in the remaining edition, that appears to mean there’ll be less local coverage, particularly in the boondocks.
The Kennebec Journal in Augusta is scheduled to have its printing shifted to South Portland next week, after which the KJ’s facility on Western Avenue will be sold.
Shell game: “The organisms most clearly at risk include commercially valuable ones such as clams and lobsters.”
Portland Press Herald story  by staff writer John Richardson, Nov. 24.
“Researchers at the University of North Carolina and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts found that a few sea creatures, including lobsters, appeared to grow shells faster as the water in their laboratory tanks absorbed carbon dioxide and became more acidic.”
Press Herald story  by Richardson, Dec. 5.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org