MaineToday Papers Ignore Reporter’s Story
Firing? What firing? The dismissal of Larry Grard, the Morning Sentinel reporter allegedly dismissed for sending an angry e-mail to a Washington, D.C.,-based gay rights group, has gotten extensive play at national media outlets from USA Today to Fox News.
Just about the only news outlets that haven’t dealt with the issue are the newspapers and Web sites of MaineToday Media, the company that owns the Morning Sentinel.
This omission can’t be due to lack of space. Over the past few days, MTM’s Portland Press Herald has been filling the news hole in its local section with a seemingly random assortment of wire-service pieces from southern New England. And the lack of a story can’t be because the company is concerned that any comment it might make will negatively affect its position in an upcoming arbitration hearing. The AP brief contained nothing inflammatory. So, it appears MaineToday’s silence is deliberate.
Somebody should tell editor/publisher Richard Connor that ignoring unpleasant news about yourself doesn’t make it go away. Quite the contrary.
Plum assignment: It’s not just in covering itself that the Press Herald is lagging. It was also badly beaten by Maine Public Broadcasting’s Susan Sharon on news the Plum Creek Timber Co. had paid legal bills for organizations that supported its plan for a major development near Moosehead Lake. Maine Public Radio aired Sharon's detailed story on Dec. 9, but the Portland paper waited two days before splashing it across the top of the front page, as if it were brand new.
What’s disturbing here is that the information on those payments has been available for months, and the many reporters who covered the hearings on this project before the Land Use Regulation Commission all seem to have missed it.
As for public radio, here’s hoping Sharon’s initiative inspires some other enterprise reporting. Of late, “Maine Things Considered” has too frequently been filled with rehashes of news from the morning papers that added little to what had previously been reported.
We already have TV news for that.
Party? What party? I’ve complained about this before, but it bears repeating: Press releases are not news stories. Putting them in print, online, or on the air as if they were is deceitful and unethical.
This is particularly true of political press releases, which are almost always carefully spun to accentuate positives and obscure negatives.
As we enter the season when legislative hopefuls issue releases announcing their candidacies, it’s important that news organizations, at a minimum, edit these self-serving documents to be sure the version that makes it to their readers, listeners, or viewers contains all the essential facts.
Take the brief item in the Dec. 10 Coastal Journal on Mike Clarke’s decision to run for a state House seat in Bath. It appears to be an almost verbatim copy of Clarke’s press release, telling us he’s a Navy veteran, a firefighter, and a publicly funded candidate. It even informs us as to who his campaign manager and treasurer are.
But it neglects to mention whether Clarke is a Democrat, Republican, Green Independent, or is unenrolled. Since the first time voters are likely to see Clarke’s name on a ballot will be in party primaries in June, it might be useful to know that stuff. Clarke’s general political philosophy – moderate, conservative, or liberal – would also be helpful, as would his stands on issues like tax reform, budget deficits, and job creation.
Unfortunately, that kind of information is rarely mentioned in press releases. It takes reporting to get it.
So, do some.
(I don’t mean to single out the Coastal Journal for this transgression, as I’ve seen similar examples of laziness in recent editions of the Morning Sentinel, Lewiston Sun Journal and Daily Bulldog – in which my weekly political column runs.)
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com