Real Estate Connections & Conundrums
Property – and news – management: The Sept. 28 Kennebec Journal carried a story by staff writer Betty Adams announcing that MaineToday Media, the company that owns the newspaper, had sold its old headquarters on Western Avenue in Augusta to Northland Enterprises LLC.
Actually, Northland doesn’t get mentioned until the third paragraph, and the information that it’s the buyer doesn’t show up until paragraph six. Northland’s role took a back seat to reporting the site will become home to a branch of Bangor Savings Bank and a Goodwill store.
While that’s exciting news for fans of checking accounts and recycled clothing, the Northland angle probably deserved a more prominent mention. That’s because Northland is affiliated with Monks O’Neil Development, which is co-owned by Robert C.S. Monks, one of the owners of MaineToday. Monks is also listed as a “founder and partner” in Northland.
In an off-the-record conversation with a MaineToday official (who asked not to be identified because talking to me doesn’t do your career at MTM much good), it became obvious the KJ staff and editors were unaware of that connection, but the official said that since the sale was “just a real estate transaction” and had nothing to do with journalism, there was no reason to mention it, anyway.
“The sale is to Bangor Savings,” the official said. “Northland just brokered the deal.”
Perhaps, but given the history of the Portland Press Herald, another MaineToday paper, in neglecting to mention Monks’ involvement in other projects, the Augusta paper should have been more diligent in explaining who the players in this deal are and how they’re affiliated with the KJ.
At MaineToday’s Waterville paper, there’s a conflict of another sort. The Sept. 28 Morning Sentinel carried a front-page article by staff writer Amy Calder on the city’s search for a site for a new police station. One of those sites is the Sentinel’s building on Front Street.
That ought to be enough of an ethical issue to call for extra caution and care, but the newspaper has a further entanglement. The man who took the police chief on a tour of the building this week, thereby alerting reporters that their office was under consideration for sale to the city, was none other than Waterville Mayor Dana Sennett. Sennett works for the Sentinel as an advertising salesman.
If the mayor worked at any other business and was involved in trying to sell his employer’s property to the city, don’t you think there’d have been a news story that discussed his apparent conflict of interest? Don’t you think that topic would have been the subject of the headline? Highlighted in the first paragraph?
It isn’t mentioned in the Sentinel story at all.
An official at the paper (who also asked not to be named) admitted the ethics of the situation were “a little murky.”
I suppose understatement is some kind of virtue.
Background non-check: The Sept. 23 Lewiston Sun Journal carried a story (attributed only to “Staff Writer”) about a write-in candidate for the Auburn City Council named Jessica Larlee. It mentions a few of her … er … unusual positions on issues (ending “the discriminatory practice of hippie profiling”), but says nothing about her political history.
Which indicates a serious lack of effort, because, as a reader with a sharp memory pointed out to me, a quick Google search would have revealed, Larlee was involved in a couple of 2004 legislative races in which she and Daniel Rogers of Auburn set themselves up as political consultants and recruited sham candidates to apply for public funding. They used some of that cash to pay themselves. The state ethics commission eventually fined her $15,500 for improper campaign accounting.
Voters in Auburn, even the hippies, might want to know that.
Staying up not-so-late: According to the Sept. 27 piece by staff write Eric Russell in the Bangor Daily News, negotiators in the Maine Legislature had essentially worked out a compromise on congressional redistricting by 8 p.m. the previous evening.
So, how come by the next morning, most of the state’s news outlets were still relying on a wildly out-of-date Associated Press story by Glenn Adams that said a deal appeared unlikely?
Dean’s back on the scene: The Radio-Info.com northern New England board is reporting that longtime Greater Portland radio personality Dean Rogers has taken over the producer spot on the WLOB (1310 AM) morning show, replacing the departed Ted Talbot.
Rogers lost his job at Citadel-owned WHOM (94.9 FM) last year due to budget cutting, seemingly ending a forty-year career in local broadcasting. He’s also the public address announcer at Portland Sea Dogs games.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com.