Down East 2013 ©
Content discontent: I sometimes wonder if MaineToday Media CEO Richard Connor reads the newspapers he owns, the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, and Morning Sentinel. My skepticism about whether Connor ever scans an occasional issue arose because if he did, it’s hard to believe he’d make a statement like the one in a July 17 story  announcing his appointment of Dale Duncan to the new position of president of all three papers.
“We already know how to produce excellent, superior content,” Connor said, as he explained that Duncan and newly promoted senior vice president of advertising Michelle Lester would be transforming MTM into a “sales-focused company.”
Connor’s papers do occasionally turn out “superior content,” but it’s hardly consistent. More commonly, there are serious deficiencies in many coverage areas.
Business reporting has been reduced to puff pieces on major employers  run by important people.
Reporting from the suburbs has been beefed up in some places – Westbrook, for instance – but allowed to deteriorate to insignificance in others – Brunswick (except for stories about the expansion of passenger rail service) and York County (except for light features).
Staff writer Tom Bell’s addition to the State House bureau resulted in a notable improvement there, but at a cost. Portland City Hall, Bell’s old beat, is now seemingly an afterthought.
And the editing continues to be haphazard, at best.
Take the July 16 Press Herald, for example.
The day before, the Portland Daily Sun had scooped its rival  by breaking the news that the referendum drive to require the city’s police to reduce enforcement of marijuana laws had failed. Even though the Sun’s coverage left a lot of questions unanswered, the bigger paper didn’t follow up the next day, instead relegating the matter to an Associated Press piece  in its briefs section.
The Press Herald was also beaten on a major political development. On July 15, the Bangor Daily News reported  that Republican state Sen. David Trahan had agreed to become the new executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. The July 16 catch-up piece  in the Press Herald contains far less information than the Bangor story – no quotes from Trahan, little about the political consequences. It wasn’t until two days later that the MTM papers got around to that stuff, mentioned in passing in a political column .
Even when somebody else does all the heavy lifting, the Press Herald doesn’t necessarily get it right. On July 16, it carried a story from the Bangor Daily  on a court appearance by a mother accused of endangering the welfare of a child. Prosecutors allege that Katrina Mitchell of Frankfort was drunk and stoned when her dog attacked and killed her baby girl. The BDN piece clearly states in the second paragraph that Mitchell pleaded not guilty to the charge.
The Press Herald headline: “Woman pleads guilty after Rottweiler killed toddler.”
Superior content, Mr. Connor?
Not even close.
Hello Highlands: The SV Weekly and the Piscataquis Times are no more. The parent Hometown Publishing LLC has merged the two papers – which covered, respectively, the Newport-Pittsfield-Dexter area and most of Piscataquis County – into the Highlands Journal .
Publisher Bob Pushard wrote that the combined publication will be “an even more effective vehicle to reach their customers and supporters.” Pushard also promised the Journal would become a larger three-section paper at some unspecified future time.
Murray injured: According to the AP, one of the three people injured in the July 17 crash of a small plane leaving Matinicus Island  was Eva Murray , columnist for the Herald Gazette in Rockland and Camden and former contributor to this Web site . No word yet on the extent and nature of Murray’s injuries.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com .