Down East 2013 ©
Topless vs. brainless: The April 11 Maine Sunday Telegram featured a front-page story by staff writer Edward D. Murphy that did a decent job of explaining why a group of women had recently marched topless  through the streets of Portland.
Murphy explored an aspect of the event severely underplayed in most of the media coverage, which tended to tilt toward the lurid. His piece was thoughtful and balanced, managing to avoid the dopey, leering, drooling viewpoints that have dominated the discussion so far, and focusing instead on organizer Ty MacDowell’s reasons for staging the protest.
But Telegram readers weren’t deprived of that ever-popular Neanderthal take on the matter. It was readily available in the paper’s “Insight” section under the byline of publisher/editor/CEO Richard L. Connor .
First, Connor reveled in the record number of views the paper’s Web site had garnered for its coverage of the march, employing that excess of double entendre that marks a weak writer with nothing to say.
“Right there,” he wrote, “staring us in the face, is the naked truth – the truth about the tastes of our readers. We are obliged to keep abreast of these trends.”
There’s lots more, with hardly a euphemism for the female anatomy spared. Connor shares his early experience looking at Playboy, although he neglects to explain what that has to do with the topless march in Portland. He suggests that for the next protest, participants get completely naked, but doesn’t bother to say why. He lets his libido hang out there for all to see, and it’s not a pretty sight.
There’s a euphemism for a guy like this:
Self-promotion: Connor didn’t limit his appearances in this week’s Telegram to his column. He was also prominently featured in a news story about a group of business leaders who have banded together to save Portland’s Fourth of July fireworks display.
(The story no longer appears on the Press Herald's Web site for reason's unknown, but the information is still available online .)
Due to tight finances, the city manager had dropped the $45,000 for the event from his annual budget. The businesspeople appear to have raised enough cash to cover that shortfall, although the story, by staff writer David Hench, never mentions how much any of them is contributing. Since Connor just completed another round of layoffs at his newspapers, it would have been enlightening to know how large his share was.
But that might have been too much like news, and this story was clearly intended to be little more than a house ad.
Promoting a friend: When independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler files his campaign finance report later this month, it ought to include a huge in-kind donation from MaineToday Media, the company the owns the Telegram, Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, and Morning Sentinel.
Cutler’s name and face have been turning up in those papers of late with a frequency that’s out of all proportion to his impact on the race. His complaint that a Republican Party operative was following him around with a video camera, a common campaign practice even in Maine, merited a full story on the front page  of the Press Herald’s local section last week, even though the MaineToday papers have otherwise paid little attention to the governor’s race. The issue was deemed so important that it merited an editorial  on April 10 in the Press Herald and on April 12 in the other daily papers, complete with a photo of the candidate.
In all cases, MTM disclosed that Robert C.S. Monks, a major investor in the company and a member of its board of directors, is Cutler’s campaign treasurer. It didn’t mention that Cutler and CEO Connor have known each other since their boyhoods in Bangor.
As an independent, Cutler isn’t on the June primary ballot, so logic would dictate that the limited space for news this spring be devoted to the party candidates that are (there are twelve of them). But independents need to build name recognition, and this recent publicity helps Cutler accomplish that. There’s a growing perception that may not be accidental.
Blown away: No controversy in Maine is more replete with misinformation than that concerning wind-power development. Questionable financial figures are thrown around by all sides without much regard for accuracy.
The Lewiston Sun Journal and staff writer Kathryn Skelton deserve credit for trying to correct this situation. In a two-part series  that ran April 11 and April 12 , the paper explored in a clear and detailed fashion the costs, benefits, and subsidies associated with wind-generated electricity. This is first-rate work that should raise the level of the debate (but probably won’t).
(Disclosure: I’ve written several of my weekly political columns in opposition to wind projects, and I was surprised to learn some figures I’ve cited in those pieces were inaccurate.)
Chill on the fill: Some days, the story-sharing arrangement among several of Maine’s daily papers seems to work out to everyone’s advantage, including the readers. Other days, particularly when news is slow, it turn into a waste of space.
The April 12 Sun Journal is a good example of the latter. The paper ran two stories from the Press Herald, one on improving alleyways in Portland’s East Bayside neighborhood  and the other on the conversion of a mall in Scarborough  into offices for a health-care company, both of which had absolutely nothing to do with the Sun Journal’s circulation area and must have been of almost no interest to its readers.
There had to have been something more relevant – or at least more interesting – on the wires. Somebody with some editorial discretion should have found it, and put it in the paper, instead of taking the easy way out.
Disguised as a normal person: Dan Billings, a GOP activist and columnist for the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal, wrote a piece in late March opposing state bond issues  pending before the Legislature.
That provoked a letter published in the papers last week  from Sarah Shed of Hallowell taking issue with Billings.
Billings did a Google search and discovered that Shed is employed by one of the groups that would benefit from the bonds , a fact she didn’t disclose in her letter.
In an e-mail to the KJ ( a copy of which he sent to me), Billings notes that such hidden conflicts of interest are common on newspaper letter pages.
A little Googling by an editor would go a long way to making them less so.
Fractured: The North East Radio Watch  Web site is reporting that the “Bone” has split up. Nassau Broadcasting had been simulcasting a rock format  on both WHXQ (106.3 FM) in Scarborough and WHXR (106.7 FM) in North Windham. But Federal Communication Commission rules on how many stations a company can own in a market have forced Nassau to put the North Windham frequency in a trust until it can be sold. The Scarborough station will continue with the “Bone” programming, while the North Windham frequency is directing listeners to 106.3, employing, I assume, a skeleton crew.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org