Down East 2013 ©
Look what the wind blew in: The Maine Press Association’s email newsletter of Sept. 22 (it’s not yet posted online) carried the word that the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram will soon have a new managing editor. Cliff Schechtman will take over the position on Oct. 17, replacing Angie Muhs , who’s moving to MaineToday Digital (a marketing business owned by MaineToday Media, the parent company of the newspapers) overseeing all online content.
Schechtman has had a long and interesting career in journalism. From 1993 to 1995, he served as editor of the Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., a paper run by Richard Connor, today the CEO of MaineToday. Schechtman left there for the Cape Cod Times, where he was editor in chief for a decade before moving to Newsday on Long Island. He was named associate editor of that publication last year.
Schechtman’s resume is heavy on the investigative pieces he oversaw, covering such issues as National Guard bases that contaminated local drinking water supplies, dangerous gaps on Long Island commuter railway platforms and prying public document out of the sheriff’s office. But there’s no mention of the way he directed reporting on a controversy that will likely have implications here in Maine.
In 2005, one of Schechtman’s ex-staffers wrote a piece  for the Providence Journal accusing him of skewing coverage of plans for off-shore wind turbines near Cape Cod. That criticism was later picked up by other publications , which claimed he followed orders from his publisher and other rich and powerful Cape Cod residents, who didn’t want their ocean views obscured by wind turbines. He’s said to have emphasized negative news and avoided stories that reflected positively on the project. A book on the subject  accused him of being an activist on the issue and of blurring the lines between news and opinion.
It’ll be interesting to see if Schechtman brings those same views with him to his new job and how that will affect the way the Press Herald covers the wind-power issue, particularly as off-shore projects in Maine move closer to reality. It’ll also be worth watching whether the paper becomes more aggressive in using its news pages to advance certain agendas favored by Schechtman’s bosses.
News? What news? When the Press Herald announced staff buy-outs  and possible layoffs earlier this month, the paper waited an extra day before carrying that news in its own pages, a delay not afforded other companies going through similar contractions. But the Portland paper did eventually get around to covering itself and its declining advertising revenues.
The Bangor Daily News doesn’t seem inclined to do the same.
As Maine Public Radio reported  on Sept. 23, the BDN is cutting as many as thirty jobs through buy-outs, with layoffs a possibility if not enough workers accept the deal. As with the Press Herald, the cause is a precipitous drop in income from advertisers. The move comes at a time when the Bangor Daily is expanding its news coverage in southern Maine ands is promising an increased focus on investigative journalism. It’s not clear from the radio story how those goals can be compatible with staff reductions.
And the Bangor paper isn’t providing any answers. As of today, it hasn’t mentioned the cuts in print or online. But it’s only been three days.
Fine fish: If you don’t regularly check the Sardine Report ,which bills it self as “Maine’s Fishiest News Source,” you’re missing the best snark in the state. Author Chuck McKay is fearless and relentless in skewering the pompous, ponderous and preposterous.
Which sometimes includes the news media.
McKay’s take on WCSH-TV’s Bill Green  (purportedly written by Green’s fellow Channel 6 staffer Don Carrigan) is spot-on, and his suggestion  for reversing circulation declines at the Press Herald (hire Chuck McKay) is not only funny but strangely sensible.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org .