MaineToday Covers Northern Maine From Freeport
Into the wilderness: MaineToday Media Washington bureau chief Jonathan “National Treasure” Riskind made one of his rare trips to Maine on August 18 to cover the visit of U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
If you read Riskind’s story in the Portland Press Herald, you might be forgiven for assuming the reporter had a busy day. The piece covered not only Salazar’s press conference at L.L. Bean in Freeport, but also the public forum held earlier in Millinocket on the controversial proposal to create a North Woods National Park.
But traveling all the way to northern Maine seems to have been too much trouble for Riskind. Instead, he relied on a written statement Salazar released after the event and the secretary’s comments at L.L. Bean. All the stuff in his story that came from the forum was supplied by the Associated Press, which actually sent somebody to cover the event. Editors at the Press Herald inserted the AP copy in Riskind’s piece with only a tagline at the end to alert readers that nobody from the newspaper had come within two hundred miles of the proposed park or its critics in northern Maine.
To see Riskind’s original article, check out the version in the Morning Sentinel, the Press Herald’s sister paper, which contains nothing from north of Freeport.
Riskind also blew off Salazar’s visit to the University of Maine’s offshore wind development program, although both the Bangor Daily News and the AP managed to get reporters to the remote wilderness outpost of Orono to gain first-hand information.
Although Riskind didn’t find it too demanding to fly all the way to Portland from the District of Columbia, he apparently couldn’t be bothered with driving the extra miles to the scene of the news story he was allegedly covering. Instead, he gave his readers the contents of handouts from a couple of officials and some carefully prepared remarks from a press conference at a sporting goods store.
This is the equivalent of covering Congress by watching C-SPAN. Except even that takes more effort.
Board replacement: Freelancer Colin Woodard has an interesting story in the August 19 Portland Phoenix about Gov. Paul LePage’s first nominee to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network’s board of trustees. She’s Ann Robinson, a lawyer and lobbyist from Preti Flaherty, in whom, according to Woodard, LePage has “an uncanny level of trust.”
LePage has been at war with MPBN since the early days of his campaign for governor last year. This year, he attempted unsuccessfully to cut off all state funding for public broadcasting. Woodard speculates that Robinson will have “only limited influence” on the twenty-one member board’s decisions, but could serve as “the governor’s eyes and ears within the broadcaster.”
Since MPBN’s board is required to meet in public and all materials supplied to board members are public documents, it’s difficult to figure what secret insights Robinson will be able to garner that LePage or anyone else couldn’t pick up on his own. And as for the hint that the governor might be stacking the board with those intent on muffling or demolishing public radio’s news operation, that’s impossible in the short term and unlikely in the longer view. LePage only gets to appoint two members, with most of the rest picked, directly or indirectly, by the University of Maine System Board of Trustees. While that group is also appointed by the governor (subject, as with the MPBN board, to legislative approval) it will be another two years before a majority of the members come up for reappointment. Even then, it’s hard to imagine LePage could stack the deck with enough anti-MPBN nominees to have any practical effect.
Still, that might be a good subject for Woodard and other journalists to explore next time there’s a nomination to the UMS board.
(Disclosure: My weekly political column runs in the Phoenix.)
Bear air: According to Tom Taylor’s August 19 newsletter for Radio-Info.com, country station WBFB (104.7 FM) is changing dial locations to reach more listeners. On September 1, “The Bear” will shift to 97.1 FM in Bangor, replacing WAEI, which carries Fox Sports Network programming. WAEI will move to WBFB’s old spot on the dial, a frequency that’s licensed to Belfast. Both stations are owned by Blueberry Broadcasting.
Taylor says that due to tower location, the new WBFB signal will reach 50,000 more potential listeners.
In the most recent Arbitron ratings for the Bangor market, WBFB finished tied for ninth with a 4.4 share. WAEI ended up twelfth with a 1.5.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com.