Down East 2013 ©
Numbers up: According to new figures released today  by the Audit Bureau of Circulation, the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram showed a small but significant jump in sales for the six months ending Sept. 30. The Press Herald’s average weekday circulation rose from 59,487 for the preceding six months ending March 31 to 60,821 for this period, a gain of just over 2 percent. The Telegram saw its figure grow from 90,523 to 92,406, also a bit over 2 percent.
It’s the first increase ABC has recorded for the papers in several years.
The numbers were not quite as positive for Maine’s other dailies that report their numbers to the bureau, although they were still better than in recent reports. The Bangor Daily News saw circulation drop by a fraction of a percent for its weekday paper (from 52,990 in March to 52,857 in September) and hold almost steady for the weekend edition (60,536 to 60,531). The Times Record in Brunswick lost about 2 percent of both weekday (8,490) and weekend (10,136) readers.
The Journal Tribune in Biddeford didn’t file with the ABC for the March period. Its figures for this six months were 5,053 daily and 6,237 weekend.
No other Maine paper has its circulations audited by the bureau.
Figures released by ABC vary from those filed by papers with the U.S. Postal Service in October because of differing reporting periods and somewhat different requirements.
Mass. exodus: In the final days before Mainers vote on whether to ban same-sex marriage , the Portland Press Herald sent staff writer Matt Wickenheiser to Massachusetts, where the practice has been legal since 2004, to see if one of the major claims by opponents is true.
In his Oct. 30 story, Wickenheiser examined the question of whether Bay State schools were required to teach about gay and lesbian families, as those urging a yes vote on Nov. 3 have argued. He did a thorough, balanced job of reporting on the way the issue is dealt with in Massachusetts schools, pointing out that how the subject is discussed – or even if it’s discussed – is a local matter. He also made it clear that school board decisions haven’t always satisfied all parents.
This article is just the sort of journalism that should have filled pages and airtime at every media outlet in the state since this debate began. Maine news shops had easy access to places where gay marriages were already happening – in Connecticut, Vermont, and Canada – and could have provided some much-needed context that might have aided voters in assessing the contradictory claims of both camps.
Why that didn’t happen at the Press Herald until there were only four days to go until the election (long after lots of ballots had already been cast), and why it didn’t happen at all at any other newspaper, TV, or radio station I’m aware of (apologies if I missed one) raises the possibility the journalism community in Maine is suffering from a chronic lack of imagination and initiative.
Unhealthy omission: Speaking of lack of initiative, could somebody give Bangor Daily News staff writer Nok-Noi Ricker a transfusion. Ricker wrote an Oct. 27 story on a Bangor forum for small-business owners to discuss health care  without ever bothering to tell readers who was behind the event. Ricker refers to Phil Bailey as the forum’s “organizer,” but neglects to point out that Bailey is actually employed by the Maine Democratic Party and a public-employees union .
Those affiliations could be one of the reasons the participants’ comments appear to be skewed in favor of a public option in any federal health-reform program.
If Ricker and the Bangor paper wanted to cover this event objectively, they should have informed readers of the organizer’s bias and included some comments from those holding opposing views. If they didn’t want to go to all that trouble, they’d have been better off skipping the meeting altogether.
The last of MaineFirst: The conservative Web site MaineFirst has called it quits. In an e-mail, owner Paul Mattson said he closed MaineFirst earlier this week, due to the increased demands of his firearms training business. Mattson said he couldn’t devote the time needed to keep the collection of right-wing news items and opinions current.
Mattson started MaineFirst about two years ago as an alternative for those dissatisfied or banned (as he was) from As Maine Goes, the state’s best-known conservative site.
One tax group is pretty much the same as another: The Oct. 28 Kennebec Journal carried this headline across the top of its state page:
“TABOR backers slam Dunlap.”
In fact, the group attacking Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap had nothing to do with the Taxpayers Bill of Rights (TABOR), but were instead pushing a people’s veto of a tax-reform measure passed by the Legislature.
Somebody at the KJ must have recognized the difference between the two organizations. The headline on the Web version  of the story got it right.
Why ask? On Oct. 27, the Bangor Daily News put this question in its online pol l:
“Do you think polls accurately predict the outcome of an election?”
Seventy-three percent of respondents said no.
I wonder why they bothered.