Down East 2013 ©
Still sinking: According to the Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation filed with the U.S. Postal Service by the Portland Press Herald, the state’s largest daily paper continues to bleed readers. Average circulation Monday through Saturday in 2009 was 60,148. A year ago, that figure was 62,981, and in 2007, it was 64,392.
The 4.5 percent annual loss of paid circulation shouldn’t come as a surprise after the turbulent year the Press Herald has endured. Until June, the paper struggled under the lame-duck management of the Blethen family, and since then, it’s had to adjust to the new operating style of Richard Connor and his MaineToday Media. Under both owners, there have been significant reductions in staff, although Connor has restored some features and pages.
What is surprising in the current filing is that Connor’s announced plan to boost readership by offering free Press Heralds in several Portland locations appears to have been more of a public relations ploy than an actual shift in policy. In its 2008 statement to the Postal Service, the Portland paper said it gave away an average of 2,182 copies a day. In 2009, that number actually dropped to 2,143.
As for the Press Herald’s sister paper, the Maine Sunday Telegram, its average weekly circulation of 92,070 was off by 4.6 percent from 2008 and is more than 8 percent below 2007 levels. Free distribution of the Telegram was also down slightly this year.
One other item worth noting in the filing is in the section requiring the paper to name those who hold mortgages or other debt on the Press Herald. The only name listed is Citizens Bank, which Connor had previously stated helped him finance the purchase of the paper. The filing doesn’t include the amount the bank is owed.
What lies beneath: I’m not sure if Kennebec Journal staff writer Keith Edwards was being timid, incompetent, or just lazy when he wrote his Oct. 1 story on the Augusta City Council races .
In profiling the candidates in the only contested race, Edwards not only failed to give readers any biographical data on them, but also managed to ignore one of the contender’s questionable online activities.
Council candidate Jarody (he only uses one name) was forced to withdraw from his 2008 bid for the state Legislature after his postings, many of them violent and sexist, on several Web sites came to light.
Jarody claimed he was “trolling,” a practice whereby someone makes outrageous comments to provoke responses, and “didn’t mean any of it,” according to an interview he gave to PolitickerME.com. But as my DownEast.com colleague Mike Tipping pointed out on his Maine Politics blog last week , Jarody is still at it and has added racist overtones to his trolls, as well as what appears to be a threat against the president of the United States.
This seems like information voters in Augusta might want before they cast their ballots for the council. So why aren’t Edwards and the KJ providing it?
Under the radar: My recent griping about the Maine media’s collective failure to cover the state Public Utilities Commission  doesn’t seem to have had the desired effect.
Only A.J. Higgins of Maine Public Radio showed up for last week’s PUC negotiating session  on Central Maine Power’s massive transmission line project.
The Press Herald’s Tux Turkel had previously reported the meeting would be closed to the public, but Higgins discovered that significant portions were open and newsworthy. Just goes to show, it pays to check things out.
Props to Higgins. Slops to everybody else.
Noticing Bangor: It’s probably not a coincidence that the weekly MaineBiz  launched a new e-mail newsletter devoted to business news in Bangor the same week the publisher of Bangor Metro magazine announced it was starting a competing business magazine called MaineAhead .
Beginning later this fall, MaineAhead, a four-color glossy, will be mailed to some 14,000 business and government leaders ten times a year. The publication has offices in both Bangor and Mainebiz’s stronghold of Portland.
There will be blood.