Down East 2013 ©
Take it or leave it: On February 25, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1837 filed unfair labor practices charges against WGME-TV, Channel 13 in Portland .
The union, which represents about four dozen producers, technicians, directors and other off-air employees at the station, accuses the Sinclair Broadcast Group station of refusing to bargain in good faith.
“The actions of the Company are unfair to our members at WGME-TV, and we believe they are illegal,” the IBEW announced in a press release.
On its Web site , the union claims that on February 17, the company declared negotiations on a new contract had reached an impasse and imposed its final offer, which includes pay cuts.
“At the bargaining table,” said the Web site, “Sinclair and WGME 13 admitted that these cuts were not because of any financial crisis, but simply because they felt that their workers were overpaid. To some, it appeared that the Company was taking advantage of the current economic downturn to force unnecessary concessions on their workers.”
In July of last year, Sinclair, which owns 58 TV stations in 35 markets, warned it might have to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy  protection due to declining advertising revenues.
As of this week, it doesn’t appear such a filing has taken place.
A call to WGME seeking comment on the union complaint and the status of the bankruptcy case was not returned.
Legal confusion: Meanwhile, there was some on-air confusion during WGME’s 5 p.m. newscast on Febraury 24. Reporter Doug Ray attempted to explain the consequences of a Maine Human Rights Commission plan to impose new rules covering transgendered students.
“The Maine Principals’ Association believes this could lead to a slew of lawsuits,” Ray said near the beginning of the piece.
Later, he appeared to contradict himself. “Once again,” he said (although he hadn’t mentioned this earlier), “the advice of the commission does not have the force of law behind it, meaning schools can’t be sued if they don’t comply with the human rights commission’s recommendations.”
(The version of this story that appears online  may be from a later newscast and doesn’t include the confusing material.)
The Lewiston Sun Journal published a more coherent version of the story by staff writer Lindsay Tice earlier that same day (although the newspaper’s incoherent Web site can’t seem to find it), in which it attributed the claim schools weren’t facing legal action if they failed to follow the new rules to the human rights commission. The article then added that the Maine School Management Association and the principals’ group disputed that claim.
See how easy it is not to appear ignorant.
Press release journalism: Bangor Daily News staff writer Dawn Gagnon is guilty of laziness or indifference or both for her February 25 story  headlined “LIHEAP expected to serve 70,000.”
Gagnon (and her snoozing editor) tells readers the federal heating assistance program for low-income people will provide aid to 70,000 households in Maine this winter, spending an average of $811 per household or about $57 million.
What she neglects to mention is whether any of those figures are more or less than last year. Or any other year. So there’s no way to determine the significance of the numbers.
And no reason for this meaningless blob of regurgitated public-relations handout to be in the newspaper.
All it would have taken to make this effort worthwhile would have been a quick visit to the newspaper’s files to see what happened in the past. or a phone call to the people who run LIHEAP.
Apparently, that would have been too much trouble.
Off the air: Two of the state’s radio stations went silent this week, but for very different reasons.
Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s WMEP (90.5 FM) in Camden stopped broadcasting when its tower was toppled by wind and rain  on February 26.
No timetable yet for repairs, but the station could be down for several weeks.
And Bangor-area listeners of non-commercial WERU (89.9 FM) in Blue Hill  lost the signal from its repeater station at 102.9 FM in Bangor. According to the Radio-Info.com newsletter, WERU’s owner, Salt Pond Community Broadcasting, was forced to shut down the Bangor station after Stephen King-owned WZON (103.1 FM)  in Dover Foxcroft complained of broadcast interference. WERU can’t return to the airwaves in Bangor until the Federal Communications Commission gives the OK.
One letter shy: Current Publishing publisher Lee Hews (disclosure: My weekly political column runs in some Current papers, and I do occasional pieces for the company’s supplements) wrote a list of “50 things I must do this year” for the March edition of her My Generation insert .
Item 27: “Spend more time in Carrabasset Valley – spend as much time as possible in Carrabasset Valley.”
While you’re there, you really ought to learn to spell it .
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org .