Down East 2013 ©
Goob boobery: If you’re depending on the Maine media to help you figure out who to vote for in the governor’s race in November, you’re in trouble. While a couple of reporters are doing quality work, including Kevin Miller of the Bangor Daily News  and A.J. Higgins at the Maine Public Broadcasting Network , much of the rest of what’s being produced is superficial and/or confusing.
Take, for example, the coverage of a Sept. 12 gubernatorial forum in Bar Harbor, sponsored by the Maine Medical Association. Both the MaineToday Media papers and the Bangor Daily sent reporters, who turned in stories for the next day’s editions.
On the issue of increasing the excise tax on tobacco products, MTM State House reporter Rebekah Metzler wrote , “the three Independent (sic) candidates – Eliot Cutler of Cape Elizabeth, Shawn Moody of Gorham and Kevin Scott of Andover – said they would consider it.”
Staff writer Meg Haskell of the Bangor Daily had a different take , saying only Scott would raise the tax.
“Four of the candidates said they would be hesitant, at least, to raise cigarette taxes in order to drive down teen smoking rates,” Haskell wrote.
What’s the truth? I guess you could watch the entire video of the event (posted on the Bangor paper’s Web site) and decide for yourself. But then, why would you need to read a newspaper?
Before moving on to other indignities, I have to give credit to Metzler for signs of having some institutional memory. While both papers’ stories noted Democratic candidate Libby Mitchell’s opposition to a cigarette tax hike, only Metzler pointed out that Mitchell “has supported such increases in the past.”
Next up is the Sept. 13 Associated Press story  by Glenn Adams in which he asks the Blaine House hopefuls if they’d support balancing the next state budget with tax increases. Adams begins the piece by stating:
“All five candidates for governor vow to steer away from new taxes to balance a state budget that faces a shortfall in the $1 billion range.”
Nicely ambiguous. Like some of the candidates’ answers. While Republican Paul LePage and Scott are clear about their opposition to the idea, the other three use weasel words to convey that impression. “I have no plans …,” says Mitchell. Cutler says he won’t consider it until he’s finished making government more efficient and reformed the tax structure. “I will not be looking to raise taxes …," says independent Shawn Moody.
Adams neither attempts to clarify their stands, nor points out that some of them (Moody, Mitchell) have refused to rule out tax hikes in the past. Weak work.
Finally, there’s the lengthy Sept. 12 piece by MaineToday Media’s Susan Cover on Mitchell’s childhood in Gaffney, S.C.
Cash-strapped as the MTM papers have been, that didn’t stop them from spending whatever it took to send Cover to a place Mitchell hasn’t lived in over four decades to discover … well, not much.
The candidate was greatly influenced by her formative years. Who isn’t? Her family and friends still think she’s a pistol. Could have gotten that with a phone call or two. She grew up in the time of segregation, but overcame her racist origins. Wouldn’t an interview with Mitchell have uncovered that?
This was a waste of time and money that could have been spent researching the backgrounds of candidates with some blank spots, such as Cutler's mysterious stay in China or LePage’s clumsy political style while mayor of Waterville.
Perhaps those stories are coming soon. That still doesn’t excuse going so far for so little.
But that’s sort of the theme for most of the gubernatorial coverage this year.
A Washington hire sparks a rumor: The Portland Press Herald has hired a new reporter, Jonathan Hemmerdinger of Washington, D.C. 
When that news began circulating earlier this week, it prompted speculation that Hemmerdinger would become MaineToday Media’s new correspondent in the nation’s capital. But that rumor isn’t true.
According to Hemmerdinger, whose journalistic resume includes an internship helping the author of a book about heart disease and reporting for a business newsletter called CEO Update , he’ll be “a general assignment reporter and that will include a lot of focus on local business.” He said he’s in the process of moving to Portland and will start his new job Oct. 4.
Hemmerdinger has to his credit a long list of published pieces on a variety of business topics , as well as several sales jobs. He’s also been the captain of a charter fishing boat on Cape Cod .
His experience with Portland and Maine is more limited.
Hemmerdinger said he used to work for now-defunct Independence Air and came to Portland on business “four times. I fell in love with the place.”
Since buying the Press Herald and its sister dailies in Augusta and Waterville in 2009, MaineToday Media CEO Richard Connor has repeatedly said he wants to re-open the D.C. bureau that was closed in 2008 as a costing-cutting move under the previous owners, the Blethen family.
Rumors to the contrary, it’s not going to happen this week.
Bad editing day: The Sept. 15 issue of the Original Irregular , a weekly newspaper published in Kingfield, may have set new records for editorial blunders in a single publication.
The parade of errors began on the cover, which features a photo of two guys with long-handled nets standing beside a roadway. The caption: “Dustin Colbry and Tom Ferrair, University of Maine biology students, use nets to catch grasshoppers along the highway – not a sight not too often seen on Route 27 in New Portland, or anywhere for that matter.”
On page four, there’s an obituary of Phyllis J. Thomas. The same obit also appears on page seven.
On page eleven, there’s a photo of Gov. John Baldacci signing a bill. Among those also in the picture are the artistically lower-cased “Mike beliveau,” “unidentified” and somebody named “Dave Letell,” who bears a striking resemblance to Public Utilities Commissioner David Littell. Except he was Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Littell at the time the photo was taken. The months-old picture seems to have been stuck in the paper only because a local pol running for higher office is in it.
On page seventeen, there’s a short piece, probably a press release (although it’s not identified as such), about a class being offered in Farmington on how to start a business. The identical item also appears on page twenty-three.
On page twenty-seven, there’s what appears to be the continuation of a story from page one about something headlined “RLRS.” It’s difficult to say what that stands for, since the beginning of the piece isn’t on page one. Or anywhere else. The article, which contains several references to the upcoming school year – a year that’s already begun – seems to be several weeks out of date.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org .