MaineToday Media Expands State House Bureau
Augusta bound: When Republicans take over the Maine Legislature next month and the Blaine House in January, they’ll face more media scrutiny than the Democrats departing those offices had to endure. The MaineToday Media newspapers – the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel – have increased the number of reporters assigned to their State House bureau by one.
Tom Bell, a veteran staff writer at the Press Herald, has been reassigned from the Portland City Hall beat to cover state government. He filed his first story from under the capitol dome for the Nov. 17 papers.
Bell joins a State House bureau that already includes reporters Susan Cover and Rebekah Metzler. He remains a member of the Portland paper’s staff, but will be supervised on a day-to-day basis by Kennebec Journal editor Tony Ronzio.
Ronzio called the move “tremendous” and promised it would produce “the best political coverage in the state.”
Until the mid-1990s, the three papers routinely assigned two or three reporters to the State House. Coverage was cut back severely by the Blethen family, the media company’s previous owner, which closed the entire Augusta bureau in 2008, due to financial difficulties. MaineToday has been gradually restoring coverage since buying the papers in 2009.
This latest upgrade won’t come without a cost, however. While the Press Herald has transferred staff writer Ed Murphy from covering York County to Bell’s old municipal beat, it’s not adding a reporter in southern Maine to replace Bell. So there’s bound to be less coverage someplace.
Ignoring a conflict – again: How hard is this to get right? Journalistic ethics would seem to require that whenever the MaineToday Media papers cover developer Robert C.S. Monks, they include a disclaimer that Monks is an investor in the company and a member of its board.
Seems simple. But it doesn’t always happen.
On Nov. 16, the Portland Press Herald ran a story by staff writer Emma Bouthillette on the front page of its local section about a housing project in Biddeford done by Monks and a partner.
The glowing coverage included no mention of his connection to the paper.
There’s no excuse for these kinds of omissions in a responsible newspaper.
Which probably explains it.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.