MaineToday's Subscription Switcharoo
The buck stops here: In December 2010, MaineToday Media made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. A sales representative phoned me to say that because I had the MaineToday-owned Morning Sentinel home delivered, I could also receive the Maine Sunday Telegram for a mere one dollar a year. Since the Telegram costs two dollars a week on newsstands in my part of the state, I promptly signed up.
I expected to be hit with a significant price hike when the year ended, but to my surprise, MaineToday sent me a renewal notice late in 2011 asking me to sign up for another twelve months for just a dollar. I did.
On May 5, I got a call from a MaineToday representative asking me if I’d like to have the Telegram delivered for half the cover price or a buck a week. I said I already got the paper for only a dollar a year, and my subscription still had months to run.
“That deal is no longer available,” said the pitchwoman. “That’s being cancelled and if you want to keep getting the paper, you’ll have to sign up for the new offer.”
I said that didn’t strike me as fair. The caller said I could take that up with customer service and gave me a number. On May 7, I called and was told by a someone who identified himself as “Peter” that my subscription was in order and ran through January.
“I don’t think there’s a problem here,” he said.
I wasn’t entirely convinced and asked to speak to a supervisor. A few hours later, someone named “Teela” (she wouldn’t give her last name), who said she was a clerk, called back with the bad news.
“The call was legitimate,” she said, “and we are canceling that deal you’re currently on. Your options are to either pay the new rate or cancel the paper.”
When I complained that this policy didn’t seem either ethical or legal, she simply repeated what she’d already said.
MaineToday circulation sales manager Erin Glendenning didn’t respond to an email inquiring about this problem, but if this abrupt shift is supposed to build either readership or goodwill, it’s falling severely short in my household.
Mal-ady: Mal Leary, the longest-serving member of the State House press corps, has been hospitalized with a serious infection. According to a May 7 memo by Adrienne Bennett, Governor Paul LePage’s press secretary, that was circulated to senior staff in the administration, Leary, the owner and only employee of Capitol News Service, “is still in critical care, however, the Doctor I spoke with was able to confirm with me that he is OK. (He actually gave consent to say he was OK to the Doctor before she could release the info.) He will remain in the hospital for the time being as tests are being completed. I do not have any additional details.”
Russell rustled: Bangor Daily News State House reporter Eric Russell is leaving that paper to join its down-state rival, the Portland Press Herald. Russell confirmed in an email that he’s making the switch, but deferred further comment until his hiring is officially announced, so it’s not known whether he’ll continue to report from Augusta or shift to another beat.
Russell is the latest in a string of reporter acquisitions at the Press Herald, which have included picking up Steve Mistler from the Lewiston Sun Journal, Down East contributing editor Colin Woodard and business writer Jessica Hall.
Connor in court: Richard Connor may be gone from his position as CEO of MaineToday Media, but his legacy in Maine lingers on. According to a May 5 story in the Bangor Daily News, a judge in Bangor has ordered Wilkes-Barre Publishing Co., owner of the Times Leader newspaper in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to pay Katahdin Paper, the former owner of a paper mill in East Millinocket, $212,152 for newsprint delivered in 2011 plus interest and fees. At the time that material was purchased, Connor was CEO of the publishing company, although he has since been ousted, as he was from his Maine operations late last year.
While Connor was at MaineToday, that company was sued by McGrann Paper Corp. of North Carolina for failing to pay for more than $124,000 worth of newsprint. That suit was settled in March, according to the Bangor Daily story.
Connor is also a defendant in a bankruptcy proceeding in Central Islip, N.Y., where the trust overseeing the liquidation of Brown Publishing Co. is claiming that Connor, his wife Deborah and Kelly Hart & Hallman LLP owe $52,500 they improperly received from Brown in two payments in 2010. Court documents filed in the case give no further details.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com.