Good Work, Bad Work and More Bad Work
by Al Diamon
Good work: On the positive side, MaineToday Media has finally acknowledged that developer Robert C.S. Monks is no longer associated with the company. That information was mentioned in passing in a blog posting by State House reporter Steve Mistler on June 24 in which he noted that Monks’ wife, Bonnie Porta, will serve as campaign treasurer for possible Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michael Michaud.
At the end of the posting, Mistler wrote, “Monks was a former investor in MaineToday Media, which owns the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal and the Waterville Sentinel. Monks is no longer involved with the company.”
As reported here in April, Monks hasn’t been a minority owner for many months. I’m told by a reliable source that MaineToday held off announcing his departure because the minority ownership situation was “in flux.” But after all this time, it seems reasonable for the company to come clean about who owns the 25 percent that’s not the property of hedge-fund manager S. Donald Sussman. The long delay makes it appear that MTM is hiding something.
Bad work: MaineToday Media used a lengthy quote from U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree in its June 27 coverage of local reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. But it didn’t bother to include a disclaimer noting that Pingree is married to Sussman, it’s majority owner.
This is the third time in recent weeks the disclaimer has been omitted. I was told the first two occurrences were oversights. But now it’s starting to look more like a pattern.
Good work: I haven’t been a big fan of recent attempts by Maine newspapers to increase the amount of self-produced video on their websites. Most of these efforts look amateurish and convey little information. They’ve generally been weak, even when compared to the feeble content of the average television newscast.
So, I didn’t have high expectations on June 26 when I clicked on the Bangor Daily News video presentation “Proof: For many rape victims in Maine, justice comes only from being believed.”
To my surprise, the piece was powerful, compelling and an ideal candidate for this sort of treatment. The stories of rape survivors gained a lot by the use of this format, as opposed to print. BDN editorial-page editor Erin Rhoda deserves a lot of credit for her writing, as does Brian Feulner for the video, Will Davis and Pattie Reaves for production, Natalie Feulner for interview support and Eric Zelz for graphics.
Here’s hoping this team is just getting started.
Bad work: The Bangor Daily News has got to do a better job screening stuff that gets posted on its website. Not only do opinion pieces and blog postings continue to appear on the home page as if they were news stories, but now unmitigated spam is showing up.
A recent example occurred on June 25 when an Indian real estate website managed to sneak its posting into the community news section.
A request for comment from the Bangor paper drew no response.
(Thanks to sharp-eyed reader Ryan Jones for this tip.)
More bad work: Buried deep inside the Portland Press Herald’s June 27 sidebar on the impact of the budget approved by the Legislature the previous day was this little item:
“Newspapers and other periodicals will lose a sales-tax exemption, worth $5.9 million over the biennium.”
In other words, effective next month, that small segment of the population that still buys newspapers will find the cost has gone up 5.5 percent. Legislative Democrats are to blame for that half percent. Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who included this idea in his original budget, is responsible for the rest. The Maine media is to blame for mostly staying silent on the issue, apparently afraid that calling attention to it would aid in its passage. It appears that strategy was a failure.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.