Down East 2013 ©
Whatever happened to … Pat McGowan? The unsuccessful Democratic gubernatorial candidate dropped off the mainstream media’s radar after he finished last in the primary election in June. But McGowan, who left his job as state conservation commissioner to run for governor, has been busy.
On Jan. 21, the As Maine Goes Web site carried a posting by someone using the pseudonym “Olde Timer,” revealing that McGowan had been hired by the Maine Public Utilities Commission  to serve as ombudsman for Central Maine Power’s grid upgrade project.
I confirmed with PUC chairman Jack Cashman that McGowan had been chosen to fill the opening “a month or six weeks ago.” Cashman said McGowan was one of a dozen applicants seeking to become the ombudsman, a position which is mandated by CMP’s agreement with the PUC. He said no press release on the hiring was sent out because, “It has not been the practice at the PUC to make public announcements of things like that.”
And without an announcement, how on earth would anyone in the State House press corps ever find out?
Institutional amnesia: The Portland Press Herald’s Jan. 21 story by staff writer Beth Quimby on an Augusta forum to discuss the state’s environmental regulations  was accompanied by a photo of a woman speaking at the event. She was identified in the caption as Martha Kirkpatrick, an Episcopal minister from Belfast and the “Missioner for Environmental Stewardship for the Episcopal Diocese of Maine.”
Kirkpatrick is also a former commissioner of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection under independent Gov. Angus King. Even if nobody in the newsroom remembered her, I’m told that information was included in a handout to reporters covering the meeting.
Seems as if her background was worth mentioning.
Institutional uniformity: The Bangor Daily News’ Jan. 22 feature by staff writer Eric Russell on the remarkable unanimity in voting displayed by members of the Bangor School Committee  should be required reading for every reporter and editor covering municipal government.
Russell did some serious digging into the internal workings of the board to expose how dissent is stifled and mavericks are controlled in a system that operates like no other in the state. The result is a compelling and fearless examination of a seemingly democratic institution that’s somehow jumped the rails.
First-class stuff, even if you don’t live in Bangor.
Let he who is without sin: MaineToday Media CEO Richard Connor’s Jan. 23 column  criticizing Republican Gov. Paul LePage for his verbal stumbles seems out of place coming from a guy who has repeatedly and publicly put his foot in his mouth.
Connor wrote that LePage “is either psychologically and temperamentally unprepared for the challenges of his new job, or that he does not take advice.”
That isn’t a bad assessment of the way Connor handled criticism of the Portland Press Herald for covering a local Ramadan service on the front page of its Sept. 11 issue last year – he apologized to readers for not balancing that coverage with a story on the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He also told a Boston radio station, “I really don’t care about what the journalism community at large thinks of me.”
That almost sounds like LePage saying he didn’t care about criticism in newspaper editorials.
Or how about his claim in The Bollard  last April that readers of his papers were complaining because, “we have too much local news.”
That seems about as credible as LePage’s errant tales about government-mandated buffalo surveys and NAACP demands he meet exclusively with black prison inmates.
From Connor’s shameless cheerleading in his news pages for independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler (who lost a close race to LePage) to his questionable statements about his newspapers’ circulation and profitability to telling Down East’s Colin Woodard, “Scoops don’t matter to me,”  Connor has been a textbook example of somebody who shouldn’t be allowed to open his mouth in public without a teleprompter, note cards, and watchful attendants with nets.
Compared to him, LePage looks slick.
And the winner isn’t: Here’s how not to write a story about a sports award. In his Jan. 24 article on the Frank J. Gaziano Memorial Awards for high-school football lineman , Lewiston Sun Journal reporter Randy Whitehouse doesn’t get around to telling readers who won until the seventh paragraph.
The long lead-in dealing with a player who didn’t get selected should have been, at most, a sidebar. Just because he was from the Sun Journal’s circulation area doesn’t make him newsworthy.
Something fishy: If reality isn’t weird enough for you, check out Maine’s newest satirical blog, “The Sardine Report .”
The initial offering is a posting on former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci’s new job as “a consultant to those who want to become excruciatingly dull.”
The site is the work of a former weekly newspaper editor named Chuck McKay. The Newport resident describes himself as “a high school English teacher by day, pseudo-journalist by night.”
If only more of the state’s pseudo-journalists were so honest.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org .