Portland Daily Sun, Vex Combined Effort Raises Questions
By Al Diamon
Two free papers for the price of one: The Portland Daily Sun, a free five-days-a-week paper, and Vex, a new publication focused on comics and entertainment listings, are merging. According to notices in the Sun and on Vex’s website, Vex will now become a weekly supplement in the Saturday Sun, instead of a stand-alone paper. In addition, the Sun will carry two pages of entertainment listings from Vex each Wednesday.
The Sun claims a daily circulation of 13,800. Vex hasn’t released the size of its press run, but it has to be considerably smaller than that. So, what’s the big deal if two minor publications share resources?
From an ethical standpoint, this arrangement is troubling. Vex is owned by Station A, a Portland marketing company. The publication has relied heavily on advertising from Station A’s clients. That wasn’t a problem, since Vex didn’t cover news or pretend to be a journalistic endeavor. But unless the entire Vex supplement is labeled as advertising, it’s likely to present the Sun with all manner of potential conflicts of interest.
To be fair to its readers, the daily paper will have to publish a disclosure whenever it covers a Station A client, noting that it has a business relationship that could be perceived as tilting its coverage. It will also have to avoid the appearance of conflict whenever it reports on — or even more troubling, doesn’t report on — companies or events that compete with Station A’s customers.
It’s difficult to figure how the problems associated with this sort of ethical quagmire could be balanced out by a few pages of event listings and some comics.
Corrected at last: On Sept. 6, the Lewiston Sun Journal finally ran a correction (in print, but apparently not online) about the photo it accidentally appropriated from Bangor Metro.
While the Sun Journal has now taken all the steps needed to atone for its mistake, it’s still disturbing that it took three days to publish this public admission of its error, particularly since the paper knew it had screwed up shortly after the photo appeared online on Sept. 3.
Baching out: Mainestream Media bought WBQW (104.7 FM) in Kennebunkport in a bankruptcy auction of Nassau Broadcasting properties last May. The station was then part of the W-BACH chain of commercial classical stations, but it won’t be much longer. On Sept. 13, the new owner will officially take possession, and the classical format will be history, according to a story in the Portland Press Herald.
What’s taking its place? Haven’t a clue. The phone number listed online for Mainestream connects to a Scarborough marketing company with a different name. The person who answered the phone there said he didn’t know anything about Mainestream or a radio station.
As for W-BACH, its programming will continue on its other two stations in the midcoast (106.7 FM) and Ellsworth (107.7 FM), now owned by Binnie Broadcasting of New Hampshire.
Bob out: In a posting last week, I erred in saying Democrat Cynthia Dill’s U.S. Senate campaign was stockpiling ex-journalists. While Dill’s communication efforts are still being overseen by former Portland Press Herald editor Jeannine Guttman and ex-TV anchor Patsy Wiggins, both now of Boss Media in Washington, D.C., Dill has parted ways with former Kennebec Journal city editor Bob Mentzinger.
Running down Ryan’s running time: There’s a Maine media angle to the story last week about Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan exaggerating his prowess in the marathon. Scott Douglas, a journalist based in South Portland, was instrumental in digging up the truth.
Douglas is the news editor for Runner’s World magazine, which first reported that Ryan was incorrect in saying in a radio interview that he’d run a marathon in “Under three [hours], high twos. I had a two hour and fifty-something.”
Douglas said he was suspicious about Ryan’s claim because “running geeks” tend to know when famous people are also good marathoners. And he was disturbed by the vagueness of Ryan’s time. “Most people can tell you their exact marathon time to the minute if not the second,” he said.
Douglas and his staff started digging through old, pre-Internet records, eventually locating 20-year-old Ryan’s entry in the 1990 Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minn. His time: four hours, one minute, 25 seconds.
They posted the news on the magazine’s Web site late on Aug. 31. After that, it was picked up by the New Yorker’s Web site and from there to CNN and the rest of the mainstream media. He spent much of the next few days doing interviews.
That wasn’t the end of Douglas’ unlikely political coverage. In the wake of Ryan’s misstatement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters he’d run a faster marathon than the GOP veep candidate.
“It’s true,” said Douglas. “We checked, and he ran a 3:16 in the Boston Marathon in 1972. It’s strange. I was sort of hoping he was wrong.”
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.