Failing to Check on the Deceased
Speak no ill: On May 17, the Kennebec Journal ran a front-page story by staff writer Ben McCanna on an Augusta man killed when a camp he was working on fell on him. In the piece, Robert Marandes Rodriques Jr. was described as a “dedicated father of five and a hard worker,” based on information from a woman the article called his widow.
“He didn't drink, he didn't go out. He was a family man. He was always there for his kids, always there for his family,” Cynthia Rodriques said of the man she called her husband.
The only other person McCanna spoke to about the deceased was his boss at a local home improvement company, who was also trapped by the collapsing building. Too bad, because even a simple Google search would have turned up another side of Rodriques that might have put an entirely different spin on the story.
As what had to be an embarrassed KJ noted the next day in a piece authored by McCanna and veteran reporter Betty Adams, Cynthia and Robert are divorced, and he has a lengthy criminal history, including a conviction for sexual abuse of a minor. All this information is readily available online.
The fault here is not all McCanna’s. An editor – I assume somebody at the Augusta paper still does that job – should have demanded a routine background check before the piece was ever seriously considered for print. That might have resulted in a decision to do a more balanced article in the first place or to do no story at all. It certainly would have avoided the unfortunate situation in which the KJ ran a glowing eulogy of Rodriques one day and trashed his reputation the next.
Phoenix not sinking: The rumor mill is swirling with reports of the sale or demise of the Phoenix weekly alternative newspapers in Portland, Boston and Providence in the wake of their parent company’s sale of its final radio station.
On May 16, Phoenix Media/Communications Group sold WFNX (101.7 FM) in Lynn, Mass. to Clear Channel Communications. Seven full-time and six part-time staffers were laid off, leaving only three employees. Phoenix Media had earlier sold off its other radio stations, including two in Maine.
That prompted the Dig Boston Web site to claim this is “actually the mid-point of what’s looking like a full-scale Phoenix firesale.”
By May 18, the rumors had reached Portland, with claims the Phoenix was no longer accepting advertising contracts past the end of 2012.
Peter Kadzis, executive editor for the Phoenix organization, dismissed the gossip. “That’s totally unfounded,” Kadzis said. “It’s a crazy rumor.”
A source at the company said the papers have struggled during the recession, but not as much as the radio stations. The cash realized in the sale is earmarked to help Phoenix renegotiate its line of credit with banks and put the weeklies on more stable financial footing.
As for the Dig report, Kadzis said, “If, heaven forbid, the Phoenix ever ceased to exist, I don’t know how the Dig would get up in the morning. They seem to exist just to take shots at us.”
(Disclosure: My weekly political column runs in the Portland Phoenix.)
Soup runs out: The last traces of the Village Soup newspaper chain vanished on May 14, when the defunct company’s real estate was auctioned off.
According to a report in the Bangor Daily News, the First, the bank that held mortgages on the properties, purchased both Soup’s commercial building in Camden and its old printing plant in Rockland for a fraction of their assessed values. The Camden site was sold for $550,000, although the town lists its value at $775,900. The Rockland plant went for $150,000 and is assessed at $401,200. Both are likely to be resold in the near future.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.