Down East 2013 ©
More sponsors than a NASCAR driver: George Smith – a contributor to this Web site , as well as a columnist for the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal – runs an informative Web site  of his own, where he provides his perspective on issues affecting hunting, fishing, and natural resources. It’s that last gig that’s causing ethical concerns.
Smith’s blog lists a half-dozen sponsors, including First Wind, Elliotsville Plantation Inc., and (until this week) Shipyard Brewing. Their logos are prominently displayed, so if Smith writes about issues in which they’re involved, visitors to his site will have no trouble finding out he has a financial arrangement with these companies.
But that’s not the case in Smith’s other journalistic undertakings.
His July 13 column  in the Sentinel and KJ praised the efforts of Roxanne Quimby to promote a national park in the Maine woods. No mention that Elliotsville Plantation is Quimby’s land management company. In fact, no mention of Elliotsville, at all.
If it were, it wouldn’t explain why Smith devoted his July 20 column  in the two papers to defending a controversial wind-power project. And it also wouldn’t explain why he didn’t include a disclaimer about First Wind, the project’s developer, being a sponsor of his Web site.
In the July 24 Maine travel column  Smith and his wife write for the Sentinel and KJ, he claims Shipyard offers the “best tour” of any Maine brewery. At the time the column appeared, Shipyard was listed a sponsor of his site. That fact wasn’t mentioned in the travel piece.
Media outlets that carry Smith’s writings need to be more vigilant in making sure his conflicts of interest are clearly spelled out for their readers. And it also wouldn’t hurt if they gave Smith a little lesson in journalistic ethics.
Documents? What documents? Since July 24, when Matthew Gagnon of the Pine Tree Politics website posted his research  on claims by former Maine Commissioner of Marine Resources Norman Olsen about the reasons for his recent resignation, not one of the state’s political reporters has followed up by revising their earlier stories that gave a lot of credibility to Olsen’s charges – several of which Gagnon discredited with documented evidence.
The one exception so far to the mainstream media’s indifference to Gagnon’s scoop is the Lewiston Sun Journal’s decision to reprint his story  on the July 27 editorial page. The rest of the state’s investigative aces not only haven’t followed up, but some of them, such as the New Maine Times Web site , continue to spew out since-discredited allegations.
There are public documents available to anyone with the initiative to ask for them. Get asking.
Foot in mouth: Speaking of which, Sun Journal columnist Douglas Rooks is one of those who failed to get all the facts before writing his July 24 piece  on Olsen’s departure. And his editors failed to exercise common sense and a touch of discretion in letting him get away with this line:
“The also-new attorney general, William Schneider, dismissed requests to check this out before Brown’s confirmation, but since then seems to have found his feet.”
Schneider uses a wheelchair.
Gushing about the news: Why am I not excited about the announcement  that WVII-TV, the perennial bottom-rated news station in Bangor, is adding a morning news show in an effort to boost its traditionally miserable ratings? Maybe it has something to do with this quote Nicole Gerber, co-host of the soon-to-debut program, gave to the Bangor Daily News:
“We want to play off the hot topic and off each other as well with more banter. … We want to come across as friendly and real, sort of on the same idea as Regis and Kelly.”
Poll dancing: Essential reading for any reporter or editor covering the release of polling data by a political campaign: My DownEast.com colleague Mike Tipping’s July 26 column  in the Sentinel and KJ on why those figures shouldn’t be regurgitated to the public without asking some hard questions.
As Tipping reports, on July 20, the Sun Journal’s Scott Taylor had a story  on a poll favorable to the establishment of a casino in a Lewiston mill. The measure will appear on the statewide ballot this November. Tipping demonstrates why the reporter should have questioned everything from the wording of the question to the qualifications of the pollster.
Since Taylor’s story ran not only in the Sun Journal, but in several other papers, it appears all involved were complicit in the widespread dissemination of misinformation.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com .