Times Record Lets Opinion Columnist Cover News
by Al Diamon
Bias? What bias? In early July, the Times Record, the afternoon daily in Brunswick, announced it had hired Gina Hamilton as a reporter covering Bath and Harpswell, as well as coordinating arts and entertainment news. Hamilton is the former editor of MaineToday Media’s weekly Coastal Journal, as well as the editor of the New Maine Times, a nonprofit website with a strong liberal bent. In addition, Hamilton writes a regular weekly opinion piece for both the Times Record and New Maine Times, which displays an obvious leaning to the left.
Nevertheless, Times Record managing editor Bob Mentzinger doesn’t have a problem with Hamilton’s dual roles, saying she’ll continue her column while adding reporting duties.
“There’s no overlap,” Mentzinger said. “She’s not opining on Bath and Harpswell .… There’s a pretty good firewall between what’s she’s opining about and what she’s reporting.”
Nor is Mentzinger concerned that readers will be confused by Hamilton’s shifting roles, saying they’ll have little trouble telling one from the other.
But will they?
To cite one possible conflict, New Maine Times has published several pieces critical of Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s plan to cut revenue sharing to municipalities such as Bath and Harpswell. While the Legislature reduced the size of those reductions, both towns will still feel some impact. Won’t readers wonder if Hamilton’s apparent opposition to those cuts in particular, and LePage in general, is somehow coloring her reporting? Isn’t there a danger this might reduce the newspaper’s credibility?
Hamilton says there’s no problem. “All of that stuff is economic analysis,” she said. “It’s not opinionated economic analysis. It just is what it is.”
Mentzinger may be comfortable with that explanation because he’s made the jump from journalism (city editor at the Kennebec Journal) to political advocacy (working on the 2012 U.S. Senate campaign of Democrat Cynthia Dill) back to journalism, seemingly without ethical qualms. Although I notice he doesn’t mention his gig with Dill on his LinkedIn page.
Probably an oversight.
Classical finale: The Maine Public Broadcasting Network announced last week that Suzanne Nance, host of the “Morning Classical” public-radio show, is leaving at the end of August to join a commercial classical station in Chicago.
Nance’s engaging style and personal appearances — she’s a soprano who’s done shows around Maine and elsewhere — had at least temporarily salvaged what’s left of classical programming on MPBN, where the network’s high ratings have been driven mostly by its morning and afternoon news blocks. Her departure raised immediate questions about the future of music shows on local public radio, particularly since network president Mark Vogelzang is on record as saying he wants to increase news and public affairs programming.
In response to listener concerns about a possible musical drought, Vogelzang told reporters he hoped eventually to move classical shows to either a separate station (something MPBN doesn’t currently have) or to an online streaming service (something that doesn’t usually appeal to older listeners, who make up the bulk of the classical audience).
Blowing out of Portland: The Media Bistro website is reporting that WCSH-TV meteorologist Keith Carson is leaving the Portland station effective July 29 to join The Weather Channel. Carson has been at Channel 6 since 2010.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com.