Down East 2013 ©
Fact-checking the fact-checker: When Republican Gov. Paul LePage opens his mouth, he’s demonstrated a tendency to cite statistics that aren’t always accurate. So, it made good sense for some enterprising journalist to closely examine the figures in LePage’s Jan. 24 State of the State address to see how they measured up to reality. In a story published Jan. 26, Bangor Daily News State House reporter Eric Russell appeared to have done just that.
Or did he?
Russell’s piece showed up only after the Maine Democratic Party put out a press release  in which it did its own version of fact-checking from a partisan perspective. In places, the newspaper story was uncomfortably similar to that release, but never mentioned it as a source.
Of the six LePage statements that Russell examined, four were in the Democratic release. Russell did additional interviews to back up his critiques, but he also quotes Ben Grant, the party chairman, without mentioning that his lines were lifted directly from the Dems’ press handout.
In the end, Russell found differences of interpretation and emphasis in LePage’s statements, concluding that while the governor’s claims could be backed up by facts, “a fuller context often was missing.”
The same could be said of his story.
Wind shelter: Maine Public Broadcasting’s “Maine Watch” show has earned its reputation as the softest news show on local television. Host Jennifer Rooks rarely probes beyond what’s already been reported elsewhere and almost never challenges her guests with questions they might find disquieting.
A typical example of Rooks’ softball approach is the Jan. 26 program  on energy policy. She interviews Jackson Parker of Reed & Reed construction company about the initiative that would require an increase in the amount of renewable energy in Maine’s electric grid. Rooks never mentions that Parker’s business, which could benefit if the measure becomes law by winning contracts to build wind farms, is one of the largest donors  to the political action committee backing the referendum.
Seems as if a pointed query about that might have livened up the piece, not to mention giving viewers a better understanding of the reasons behind Parker’s advocacy.
Then there’s George Smith – columnist for the Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal, as well as a contributor to this website. In his Jan. 25 newspaper piece , he gushes at length about the advantages of the clean-energy proposal without ever disclosing that First Wind, a major wind-power developer, is a sponsor of his website .
As I’ve made clear in my political columns over the years, I’m no fan of wind farms. But my problems with the approaches of Rooks and Smith to covering this issue has to do with the former’s lack of initiative and the latter’s lack of transparency.
Bangor bound: Stephen Betts has covered Rockland and mid-coast Maine for the Village Soup newspapers and their predecessors for more than three decades, but he announced  last week that he’s leaving to take over the same beat for the Bangor Daily News. Betts will replace Heather Steeves , who’s shifting to part-time status while furthering her education.
Missing Mr. Connor? Richard Connor , the ousted CEO of MaineToday Media, has resurfaced in Texas, where he still owns the Fort Worth Business Press and still appears to consider himself a political player .
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org .