Sometimes a Disclaimer Isn’t Enough
Like father, don’t like son: The Bangor Daily News made a serious error of judgment when it assigned State House reporter Eric Russell to do a story on the controversy at the Maine State Housing Authority. As noted at the end of Russell’s Nov. 30 article, his father works at the agency.
I have no idea what Russell’s dad does for MSHA. He could be a top executive. He could clean toilets. It doesn’t matter. No reader who had any partisan interest in the battle between Republican State Treasurer Bruce Poliquin and MaineHousing executive director Dale McCormick, a prominent Democrat, came away from the piece without at least a tiny amount of doubt as to whether Russell had been objective.
I read the story carefully. I didn’t perceive any obvious bias. But without being inside Russell’s head, knowing what impact his words might have on his father’s employment, there’s no way to know for sure.
What’s sad is that this ethical questioning wasn’t necessary. The Bangor Daily has a number of competent reporters who could have handled this piece without having to involve Russell. Why that didn’t occur to somebody in authority at the Bangor paper is a mystery.
To make matters worse, Russell’s article ran in several other Maine papers as part of the story-sharing arrangement among them. In the Lewiston Sun Journal and the Morning Sentinel and possibly others, it was published without the disclaimer. I’m not sure who’s to blame for that omission, but it’s inexcusable.
Big name: The Maine Public Broadcasting Network announced on Nov. 29 that it had hired Mark Vogelzang as its new president and CEO. Vogelzang will replace Jim Dowe, who had announced earlier this year that he’d be retiring on Dec. 31.
The incoming president spent sixteen years as head of Vermont Public Radio, served on National Public Radio’s board for seven years and has an extensive background in fundraising. But lately he’s been serving as interim general manager at WBFO-FM, a public station in Buffalo.
Editorial rebirth: As noted earlier, Greg Kesich has returned to the Portland Press Herald as editorial page editor. Kesich went public on Nov. 30 with a note at the end of his weekly column reversing the farewell he had previously issued and promising that any future sign offs would be posthumous.
Speaking of which: It’s no exaggeration to say that anyone who listened to radio in southern Maine over the last forty or more years has heard the work of Gene Terwilliger.
Even if they never heard his voice.
Terwilliger, who died last week, was the engineer who kept WLOB, WPOR, WJBQ, WIGY, WMGX and many more on the air with his incredible knowledge, his legendary patience, his remarkable wit and the judicious use of spit and duct tape. He was well-liked and much appreciated by nearly everyone who worked with him (including me) and will be missed even by those who don’t remember his early on-air escapades late at night on WLOB as “the world’s worst disc jockey,” a self-proclaimed title that was equal parts humor and accuracy.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.