From Columnist to Politician in a Week
Bob’s in: The Portland Daily Sun seemed a little startled and uncomfortable with the sudden decision on August 19 of columnist Bob Higgins to run for mayor. In an August 20 story by staff writer David Carkhuff, the free daily paper devoted two paragraphs to making it clear it had nothing to do with Higgins’ candidacy:
“Higgins is an occasional freelancer and columnist at the paper who is paid per submission. He is not a staff writer, the Daily Sun noted in a press statement Friday, explaining that Higgins' column is on hiatus while he ponders a mayoral run. ‘No decisions have been made about Higgins’ column should he fail to qualify for the ballot or lose the race,’ the Daily Sun reported.
“The Portland Daily Sun is not involved with his candidacy in any way, editorial staff of the free daily newspaper stated.”
Nevertheless, the Daily Sun ran Higgins’ final column the next day, repeating the disclaimer that henceforth it would be “on hiatus.”
That was a dumb move, but not as dumb as the way Higgins handled his transition from journalism to politics. I find it difficult to believe that he decided to run for mayor overnight. In fact, it appears he had at least one potential issue in the race in mind when he wrote his column the previous week. If Higgins exploited his position as a columnist for his political gain, that’s inexcusable. And it may explain the Sun’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for taking him back after the race is over (assuming, as seems likely, that he loses).
Higgins has written some entertaining pieces in his time at the paper, but his manner of leaving calls into serious question his qualifications to return.
Usual problem: Here’s the first sentence of an August 22 story in the Bangor Daily News by staff writer Nok-Noi Ricker:
“The birth certificate for Coral Anne Mae McAllister-Wallace, who was born Friday afternoon, lists a unique birthplace.”
That location, according to the article, was in the family station wagon.
Births in cars are unusual (which means out of the ordinary), but they aren’t “unique” (which means one of a kind). The difference between those words is significant and worth respecting, because once in a great while one of us might actually have to write about something that really was unique, and we wouldn’t want to have devalued that adjective so much that it turned that story into just another run-of-the-mill piece.
Who watches the watchmen? Headline in the August 22 Portland Press Herald:
“Police chief seeks strict copper law.”
It’s only right they control themselves first.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.