Quality Maine Journalism? Yes, It Lives
Drunk and disorderly: The July 22 Maine Sunday Telegram and Lewiston Sun Journal took me by surprise. Among the soft features and long-but-less-than-comprehensive articles that have become the mainstay of both Sunday newspapers in recent years were two pieces that reminded me why I still bother to read them.
The Telegram’s Ann S. Kim took a thorough and thoughtful look at drunk-driving cases in Maine, noting not only the wide variation in conviction rates among counties, but also explaining why that happens, thereby exposing serious flaws in the legal system that make it difficult to dispense equal justice across the state. Her piece opens the door to other avenues of inquiry into the financial and organizational inadequacies of the courts and prosecutors’ offices. Here’s hoping Kim and the Telegram follow up in short order.
At the Sun Journal, staff writer Daniel Hartill dug deep into the complex situation that’s caused some of the state’s county jails to suffer from chronic overcrowding, while others have beds to spare. At fault, Hartill found, is a poorly conceived jail consolidation law that failed, because of political pressure from the counties, to clearly define who’s in charge of the system. He discovered that unless corrective measures are taken soon, the entire structure is in danger of collapse. This is reporting that’s worth the price of the paper all by itself.
Which, unfortunately, it pretty much was.
Neither of these stories is going to win a Pulitzer. Nor should they. Awards of that nature ought to be reserved for exceptional work. What Kim and Hartill turned out was good, solid journalism of the sort readers should expect routinely. That there’s such a small amount of it in the Maine media is a serious cause for concern. That there’s still at least some is a faint sign of hope.
Blah, blah, blah: I had low expectations for the Maine Sunday Telegram’s new point-counterpoint political commentators when they were introduced last month. Democrat Michael Cuzzi and Republican Dan Demeritt have fulfilled them. Barely.
The less-than-dynamic duo has devoted much of its space to nitpicking about independent U.S. Senate candidate Angus King (who doesn’t have his own pre-programmed drone to provide his rote response) and the rest to tiresome recitations of their partisan positions (Democrat Mike Michaud will be re-elected – or not). While Demeritt has shown occasional flashes of willingness to speak critically of his own kind, Cuzzi has yet to offer anything unexpected. Or insightful.
On the whole, these two aren’t as woefully predictable as the Bangor Daily News tag team of Republican Phil Harriman and Democrat Ethan Strimling, but they’re still less than enlightening or entertaining.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.