Down East 2013 ©
Closed case: The Lewiston Sun Journal scored a scoop  on July 23 when it reported that a Superior Court justice had ruled that the state Board of Environmental Protection hadn’t followed the law last year in issuing a permit allowing construction of a casino in Oxford. The story by managing editor Judy Meyer was factually correct and reasonably complete in presenting reaction from pro- and anti-casino factions. The only problem was the spin.
Much of the article indicated the judge’s ruling would likely force the gambling emporium, which only opened a month ago, to close. Even the sub-headline that read “Casino’s lawyer disputes assertion that gambling house will shut down” gave prominent play to the idea that the place would be shuttered. The piece itself devoted three prominent paragraphs near the top to that proposition, quoting the attorney who’d filed the suit.
By the time the other side got a word in – just before the jump – the concept of closing the casino was firmly established in the reader’s mind. The notion that it wasn’t such a sure thing legally didn’t get the play it probably deserved until the next day, when a story  headlined “Casino staying open” topped the front page. That piece was attributed to “Sun Journal Staff” and relied heavily on reporting from the Associated Press.
Meyer deserves credit for getting as much information as she did on a weekend – the ruling was mailed to the parties on Friday, July 20, and not received until the next day – but she loses points for getting so thoroughly spun by casino opponents with their inflammatory claims of an imminent closing. Allowing that tilt in her story probably resulted in a lot of unnecessary concern among casino workers and vendors and may have deterred some customers. Playing down this scenario just a bit would have resulted in a more balanced and realistic piece.
Southern incursion: The Bangor Daily News has forged another unlikely alliance with a news outlet in southern Maine. On July 25, the Bangor paper announced  it would begin sharing content with the Forecaster weeklies, which cover Portland and its suburbs.
The move follows the BDN’s partnership with the Portland-based alternative monthly the Bollard and appears to represent another step in its efforts to make its website more attractive to folks who live in the circulation area of the rival Portland Press Herald.
The Forecaster is owned by the Sun Media Group, which also owns the daily Lewiston Sun Journal. But that paper has shown little inclination to take on the Press Herald, either in print or online, instead refocusing itself on covering its core communities.
Meanwhile, the Portland paper appears to be in a holding pattern with regard to its Web site, awaiting the hiring of a new cyber-guru who’ll be tasked with salvaging the mess left behind by the previous owners and their plans to have the site operated by its struggling digital marketing company. By the time that happens, the Bangor Daily may have established itself as formidable online competition in the Press Herald’s backyard.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org .