Down East 2013 ©
Same-sex cluelessness: On October 5, the Morning Sentinel had a front-page story by staff writer Doug Harlow  on some unusual campaign fliers being distributed in Skowhegan. The fliers pointed out that incumbent Democratic state Rep. Jeffrey McCabe supported legalizing same-sex marriage in Maine, while his Republican opponent, Brian Hale, opposed that move.
The Sentinel story focused on Hale’s disavowal of the fliers, quoting him as saying he didn’t want to make gay marriage a major issue in his race. It wasn’t even until a couple of paragraphs from the end that Harlow bothered to inform readers about who had produced the documents — the Washington, D.C.-based National Organization for Marriage  — and then he quotes Hale as saying he’d never heard of that group.
That seems a little unlikely. NOM was the financial force behind the repeal of Maine’s same-sex marriage law in a 2009 referendum. The group is still involved in a lawsuit in which the state ethics commission is seeking information on its donors. And NOM announced several months ago that it intended to target the law’s supporters in this year’s legislative elections.
But Harlow failed to follow up on — or even mention — any of that, merely pointing out that he’d been unable to reach anybody at NOM’s Washington office. A quick Google search or a few minutes in the newspaper’s files should have turned up a local contact, such as Bob Emrich of Plymouth, another key figure in last year’s gay marriage debate.
Harlow’s (and his seemingly sleepy editors’) half-hearted effort in reporting this story left the door open for A.J. Higgins at Maine Public Radio to pick up the slack and file a more complete report  later that day.
Those fliers in Skowhegan have statewide implications, since NOM is almost certainly planning a similar effort in other legislative districts. The Sentinel missed it.
Makes me wonder what else it’s missing.
More vanishing readers: The Morning Sentinel published its annual Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation on October 6, and it showed another sharp decline in sales of the Waterville daily.
According to the document, over the last year, the Sentinel had an average daily circulation of 14,548 copies. That’s an 8.5 percent dropoff from the 15,897 figure of a year ago, the largest annual loss in recent years.
Since 2007, the paper has shed about 20 percent of its readers.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com .