Confidentiality Request Left Out of Press Herald
Under-reporting: Way down at the bottom of the Feb. 18 Portland Press Herald story by staff writer Rebekah Metzler on actions taken by the state Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices, there are a few short paragraphs about that newspaper’s own ethics issue.
On Feb. 17, the commission voted 4-1 to end its investigation of the Press Herald’s donation of free advertising space to the Portland Regional Chamber for a political campaign, agreeing with a staff recommendation that no further action was warranted.
What Metzler’s article doesn’t mention is a bit of hypocrisy on the paper’s part. According to a source familiar with the case, the commission had earlier requested records from the Press Herald concerning its ad deal with the chamber. The paper refused to supply that material unless the commission agreed to a protective order that would have kept the records confidential.
That’s right, the Press Herald, which editorialized against confidentiality agreements in the case of the Cutler File bloggers, is all in favor of them when it comes to itself.
Is that the sound of credibility crumbling?
Non-reporting: On Feb. 17, the AFL-CIO added the television stations of Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcasting, including WGME in Portland, to its national boycott list.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1837 has been trying to negotiate a new contract with WGME for two years. A year ago, the station declared an impasse and implemented its last contract offer without union approval.
According to the IBEW, the Portland station is profitable, and Sinclair recently increased compensation packages for top management, but refuses to give raises to lower-level workers.
Of course, WGME hasn’t mentioned this development in its newscasts, but neither has the Press Herald, which has a content-sharing agreement with the station.
Doing a favor for a corporate friend? Or just a lack of awareness of what’s going on?
I can’t decide.
And speaking of reporting on unions: The Portland Phoenix’ Jeff Inglis has the scoop on upcoming contract negotiations between MaineToday Media, the Press Herald’s parent company, and the Newspaper Guild.
The union agreed to pay and benefit cuts (and a lot of layoffs) when MTM bought the paper from the Blethen family a year and half ago. Now, with MaineToday CEO Richard Connor claiming he’s restored the publication to profitability, the guild is looking to make up that lost ground.
The current contract expires June 30.
(Disclosure: Inglis is the editor of the Phoenix, which carries my weekly political column.)
A reason not to report bad news: The Press Herald has been uncharacteristically aggressive in covering the Dec. 28 chairlift accident at the Sugarloaf ski resort in Carrabassett Valley, producing numerous follow-up stories.
Apparently, someone noticed.
On Feb. 18, staff at Sugarloaf received an e-mail from management instructing them to cancel all orders for the Portland paper and replace them with copies of the Lewiston Sun Journal.
The memo gives no reason for the change, but a source with knowledge of the decision-making process said it was a direct reaction to what Sugarloaf officials felt was negative coverage.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.