Down East 2013 ©
Learning process: Scott Wasser – executive editor of the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, and Morning Sentinel – was a guest on National Public Radio’s “Talk of the Nation” program on Sept. 8 to discuss his decision not to use an Associated Press photograph of a mortally wounded U.S. Marine from Maine. 
During the interview with NPR’s Neal Conan , Wasser said he decided not to run the photo because, “I just didn’t see anything that it really contributed to the public’s well-being or knowledge base. I mean, to me, it was a gruesome photo that – I guess the question is: Why not? Why would I run it?”
Wasser said he made the decision before he was even aware the Marine’s family had requested that it not be distributed. He also didn’t seem to know where the Marine had been killed – Iraq or Afghanistan – or when.
In discussing the column by copy desk chief Jim Keyser criticizing the AP and journalists in general for graphic coverage of war, Wasser made this curious statement:
“[W]e’re still new in owning and running the newspaper. We purchased the paper in June, so this is all a learning process for a lot of us, and particularly for the people who work for us.”
In this case, it’s not clear who learned what.
Departing process: Whatever knowledge Keyser gleaned from his column-writing experience, he won’t be around very long to put it to use at the Press Herald. According to a knowledgeable source, he’s one of about 57 employees of MaineToday Media (which owns the three papers) who accepted the company’s buyout offer.
According to the Web site of the Portland Newspaper Guild , the largest union at MaineToday, “More than half of these positions result from the consolidation of the company's printing operations into one facility in South Portland. Fifteen of the departing employees are Guild members.”
Even with the buyouts, company officials have said layoffs are likely by the end of this year, although the exact number hasn’t been determined.
Notably, the Press Herald, KJ, and Sentinel have yet to report on the buyouts, although the papers have devoted considerable space to covering the hiring of company executives.
Identifying process: The Sept. 11 Press Herald featured a detailed front-page story on U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe’s key role in the health care debate . The article carried the bylines of Eric Pianin and Mary Agnes Carey, who were identified as being with the “McClatchy Newspapers.”
Pianin and Carey don’t work for McClatchy. They’re employed by something called Kaiser Health News , which is described on its Web site as “an editorially independent news service” underwritten by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
McClatchy’s only involvement seems to have been to distribute the piece through McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
The article appears to be reasonably unbiased, but that’s no justification for a newspaper disguising its origin. (The Bangor Daily News also used the same story on the front page of its Sept. 11 print edition – it’s not online – but attributed it to Kaiser and included a tagline explaining what the news service is.)
Sucking-up process: Newspapers lose credibility when they appear to be pandering to advertisers by providing them with favorable coverage. For example:
The Lewiston Sun Journal ran one of its “Tough People, Smart Money” series of tips on beating the recession on the front page on Sept. 11, reminding readers they could get a $2 break on the $14.50 price of a ticket for the Sunset Run cruise on Casco Bay Lines if they used coupons that ran in recent editions of the paper. (This article hadn’t been posted online as of this afternoon.)
What the paper neglected to mention is that you can take the same trip merely by purchasing a round-trip ticket for Cliff Island. The regular price is $11.55, or nearly a buck cheaper than the coupon deal.
Then, there’s the Press Herald piece that dominated the front of the Sept. 11 local section on the fifty-fifth anniversary of a local car dealership .
Staff writer Melanie Creamer informs us that the owners “pride themselves on selling customers high-quality vehicles and good service.”
But setting aside that puffery, doesn’t the age of the dealership justify the coverage? It would appear not. Late in the article, Creamer informs us that, according to a state car dealers association, “It's not unusual for a family-owned dealership” to last this long, and there are several others in the state of about the same age or older.
So, the news hook is what?