The New Editor Speaks
Wasser on what’s next: Scott Wasser says he doesn’t really have a title. But the masthead on the editorial page of the June 25 Morning Sentinel lists him as the “Executive Editor,” a position that appears to be second only to editor and publisher Richard Connor in determining the news and opinion content of the MaineToday Media publications.
There’s more vagueness.
Wasser says he’s not just a hired gun, brought in to re-work the Sentinel, Kennebec Journal and Portland Press Herald, after which he’ll return to his old job as the top news executive at Connor’s Wilkes-Barre, Pa., paper, the Times Leader. “I’m planning to move to Maine,” he said in a telephone interview yesterday, just a couple of hours after Connor, through spokesman Dennis Bailey, said Wasser’s long-term status was “up in the air.”
Wasser has already made some changes in the Press Herald, restoring the feature obituary (“It’s a popular feature, and [the previous management team] eliminated it. How much common sense does it take to bring it back”) and giving the editorial staff a full two pages every day (“I can’t even imagine what the rationale was to drop them. Why wouldn’t you have two pages?”).
Asked what’s next, he said he wants to increase the number of stories his reporters turn out each day. “There’s not enough local news,” he said. “We need to do a better job of covering local news – just do more of it.”
Does that mean the Press Herald will soon have a full-time reporter at the State House, a position axed by the previous owners, the Blethens?
“I haven’t had enough time to think about it,” Wasser said.
Wasser was definite about the position of editorial-page editor at the Portland paper. There won’t be one. “[Editorial writers] Greg [Kesich] and Mike [Harmon] will share those duties,” he said. “They don’t need titles as far as I’m concerned.” He said Naomi Schalit would continue as the opinion page editor at the Sentinel and KJ. “I don’t see any reason to have anybody else helping them or tutoring them or anything else,” Wasser said. “I don’t think they need to report to anybody other than Rich [Connor] or myself.”
That jibes with what Connor has told several people about thinning out the management levels at the papers by not refilling many of the 31 jobs that were eliminated when he bought the company. Connor has also said he’d like to run editorials on statewide issues in all three papers to give MaineToday a unified voice. Opinion pieces on local issues would continue to run only in the paper covering that area.
As for Connor’s statement that up to 100 more employees could face layoffs in the coming weeks, Wasser said, “My goal is not to have any layoffs in the editorial department. That’s not a promise, it’s a goal. This is an area where we’re clearly beefing up our product. We’re trying to strengthen our editorial product, not weaken it.”
Does Susan Collins write for the Press Herald? The Portland paper’s political correspondent, Dieter Bradbury, had a story in the June 25 edition on the announcement by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins that she’d hired former PPH editor Jeannine Guttman as communications director for the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
It couldn’t have taken long to write.
Bradbury lifted a quote from Collins and one from Guttman from the press release sent out by Collins office. That practice is ethically acceptable only if the reporter informs readers that he’d doing it, rather than interviewing those people himself. Otherwise, I’m not sure how it differs from plagiarism.
It also might have been instructive if Bradbury had put Guttman’s new job in context. Collins has a long history of giving public-relations jobs to Maine journalists, including Mark Woodward, now editor of the Bangor Daily News; Felicia Knight, formerly an anchor at Channel 13 in Portland and current spokesman Kevin Kelley, another refugee from Portland TV.
If this keeps up, Collins will have hired more reporters and editors in recent years than any newspaper in Maine.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.