As Maine Goes — Goes Wrong
By Al Diamon
Threadbare: As Maine Goes, the conservative Web forum, took a step last week in a disturbing direction. Editor/owner Scott Fish posted a notice at the top of AMG’s home page offering to sell a thread in that position to any commercial or political entity for $199 a month.
For those not familiar with AMG, each entry by members on a fresh topic is called a thread. They typically deal with politics, but can range across a broad spectrum, from home improvements to literature to etiquette. The site is often the first to present news of Republican and other right-wing happenings, and has been a valuable resource for reporters and political junkies.
Make no mistake, AMG isn’t journalism. Its contributors are openly biased, and many of them show little concern for checking facts before spewing out their criticisms. There’s an entire Web site devoted to making fun of its excesses. And because many of the writers on AMG use pseudonyms, it’s not always possible to discern if they’re concealing conflicts of interest.
But until now, it’s been clear which items on the site were opinions from posters and which were ads. Fish’s decision to sell a thread blurs that line and opens AMG to serious ethical questions.
I sent Fish an e-mail asking whether the paid thread would be clearly labeled as advertising, but have not yet received a reply. If it will be labeled an ad, I wonder why anyone would buy one, since it would be cheaper just to register as a member and post whatever views you like. If it’s not marked as an ad, doesn’t that create suspicion as to the motives of every other poster?
I recognize the need for sites such as AMG to cover costs, but this seems like a damaging method of doing so.
Kicking butt: Count me among those who had doubts when the Bangor Daily News hired the relatively untested Erin Rhoda in April to be its editorial page editor. Also, count me among those whose doubts have been dispelled.
Not only has Rhoda brought new life to what had become a stodgy section of the paper, but she’s also regularly producing the most compelling reading in the BDN. Anyone needing proof of that is directed to “Arguably,” her weekly column. In the Sept. 14 column, Rhoda recounts the horrifying story of a Passamaquoddy tribal member taken from her family as a child and turned over to abusive foster parents.
Rhoda’s careful reporting and low-key style allow the Passamaquoddy woman to tell her own story in riveting fashion, without the stylistic excesses that characterize so much of what passes for newspaper commentary (hmmm, I wonder why my ears are burning). While this piece is an exceptional example of her work, Rhoda has managed to draw my attention nearly every week, often on topics that I would have sworn I had no interest in reading about.
Worth the price of the Saturday paper all by itself.
On the other hand: I’m not clear as to why the Bangor Daily News would run a column by the talented and entertaining Erin Donovan in the Sept. 12 paper that was almost the same as a blog post by the same author that appeared on the BDN’s Web site back on July 29.
I do know that I don’t want to shell out a buck for a daily paper that’s carrying re-runs.
(Disclosure: The Bollard, which hosts my blog and carries my monthly media column, has a business relationship with the Bangor Daily News.)
Free for a fiver: The Sept. 16 Lewiston Sun Journal carried a banner across the top of the front page that read, “LEANN RIMES PERFORMS FREE CONCERT.” The story in the Maine section made it clear that admission to the event, part of the Oxford Fair, cost five bucks.
Maybe the editor thought a headline that read “LEANN RIMES PERFORMS CHEAP CONCERT” sounded cheesy.
Mistaken monster: The Maine media took great delight in reporting on independent U.S. Senate candidate Angus King’s new TV ad, which features a huge reptilian monster attacking hapless villagers.
“Angus airs ‘Godzilla’ ad,” declared the Portland Press Herald’s Web site.
The spot “features a burping Godzilla,” reported the Lewiston Sun Journal’s Scott Thistle.
The Associated Press said, “Independent Angus King’s latest ad appearing today features Godzilla, King’s way of showing that he’s not the monster he’s portrayed to be.”
The ad itself sports an online link asking viewers to “Help ‘Godzilla’ take over the airwaves” by contributing to King’s campaign.
Only one problem: That’s not Godzilla. As any fan of old monster movies will tell you, the creature King displays on a TV screen is not the legendary Japanese character, but the British rip-off, Gorgo.
Just check out the frightened villagers fleeing the beast. They’re from Ireland, not Japan. And experienced monster spotters know that Gorgo has ears. Godzilla doesn’t.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.