Down East 2013 ©
Letting Leigh lie: As reported here last week , the Portland Press Herald dismissed freelance columnist Leigh Donaldson after discovering he had borrowed liberally and without attribution from another writer’s work for an August 2 piece about scams against the elderly. Since my posting appeared, Anneli Rufus, the author of the work Donaldson stole, has done further research, uncovering at least two more instances where he plagiarized columns .
The Press Herald’s response: silence.
When other newspapers have uncovered serial plagiarists in their midst, they’ve often published detailed accounts of what went wrong  and how they’d attempt to prevent such incidents in the future.
Nothing of the sort from the Press Herald.
In fact, the paper hasn’t even bothered to remove all of Donaldson’s old columns  from its Web site, even though Rufus said there are other instances of copied material in some of them.
It’s well past time the Press Herald came clean with its readers, not to mention the writers who’ve been ripped off. To do anything less is to be nearly as irresponsible as Donaldson.
Quality product: I’ve been less than enthralled with most of the stories the MaineToday Media papers (the Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel) have produced when they send reporters to Afghanistan , the Gulf Coast, Haiti and other distant locations. The purpose of these junkets seemed less to uncover stories that hadn’t already been reported in the national media and more to produce copy that could be submitted to awards competitions. In general, the results have been unimpressive articles about Mainers in distant places that could have been churned out with a couple of phone calls.
Given that history, I approached the recent series by MTM staff writer John Richardson on the lessons California can teach Maine about marijuana distribution centers  with considerable skepticism. I was surprised when that defensive mechanism proved unnecessary.
Richardson’s comprehensive look at the way California has dealt with the many issues that will soon be confronting Maine’s pot dispensaries provided valuable information from a variety of perspectives. As the carefully written and well-edited stories demonstrated, Richardson had a clear idea of what he needed to learn and a sensible plan for discovering that information. This combination of thorough research, extensive interviewing, and solid reporting should serve as a template for all future out-of-state journalistic expeditions.
One side’s enough: When a political candidate makes a serious charge against an opponent, it’s standard practice to get a response from the party under attack. At least, that’s the way it is at most news outlets. The Portsmouth Herald, however, may be an exception.
On August 16, the Herald ran a story by staff writer Casey Sullivan on a campaign event held the previous day by Maine Republican 1st District congressional candidate Dean Scontras .
Scontras accused Chellie Pingree, the Democratic incumbent he hopes to unseat, of what Sullivan called “irresponsible spending decisions,” including promoting a $26.5 million earmark for Orange County, California.
How did Pingree respond?
In Sullivan’s story, she didn’t. The congresswoman isn’t quoted. Nothing from her spokespeople. Not even a line stating that she couldn’t be reached. Even though Sullivan had much of Sunday and a few hours on Monday to get a comment, there’s nothing in print.
Other reporters covering the same story managed to locate Pingree for her reaction .
But even on August 17, another day later, there’s still nothing on the paper’s Web site.
So what’s the Herald’s excuse? Bias? Laziness? Incompetence?
Or maybe there isn’t any.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org