Barry, Busby Needed to Pick Up the Phone
By Al Diamon
Father and son: The Bollard made a mistake last week.
Actually, a couple of mistakes.
It began on Oct. 10, when Crash Barry filed a detailed article on how independent U.S. Senate candidate Angus King’s campaign had failed to monitor and deal with the Twitter account of King’s son, Ben Herman.
Herman, who’s a college student in his early 20s, had posted a string of tweets dating back many months that were derisive toward women, African-Americans, people with disabilities, gay people and senior citizens. Barry’s point was that a candidate who has stressed his commitment to social media had done a poor job of keeping an eye on his own family’s postings.
“The lack of discretion seems especially odd,” Barry wrote, “since King’s spokesperson, Crystal Canney, routinely asks all interns and volunteers for their Twitter handles and frequently inquires about Facebook postings.”
OK, it’s not the biggest issue in the world, but Barry’s discovery does raise a legitimate question about King and his staff’s attention to details. Senators have to oversee a large and diverse workload. Not being able to keep everybody in the family on message is a serious oversight that raises concerns about the candidate’s management skills. Bangor Daily News blogger Matthew Gagnon has an excellent analysis here.
Unfortunately, that’s not where the matter ends.
Chris Busby, editor and publisher of The Bollard, also writes a weekly column for the Bangor paper. Busby cited Barry’s work as the basis for his piece on how Herman’s tweets indicated King was a less-than-effective parent and role model.
“The man who promises to bring Maine values to the United States Senate has clearly failed to do so in his own home,” Busby wrote.
There’s scant evidence to back up such an assertion. And there are plenty of examples of offspring of exemplary parents who fail to follow suit. Taking a shot like this crosses into territory beyond the range of previous political attacks in Maine. More importantly, it doesn’t really help anyone in deciding how to vote.
The Bangor Daily opted not to print Busby’s column (although it did show up briefly on its website). It also removed a box linking to The Bollard from its homepage (the two publications have a media partnership agreement) and hadn’t restored it as of late morning on Oct. 15, possibly because the column (as well as Barry’s original article) are posted there.
There’s blame enough here to spread around.
First, Barry should have called the King campaign for a reaction. It might have been illuminating to find out how the candidate managed to miss what someone so close to him was up to. Failing to do something so fundamental to good journalism weakens his piece.
Second, Busby should have corrected that oversight in Barry’s reporting before posting his story and certainly before writing his column. Busby e-mailed me that he did contact the campaign after Barry’s story was already online (and his column had appeared briefly), but by then, Canney refused comment.
Third, while the Bangor Daily News is well within its rights to decide what it wants on its website and what it doesn’t, it overreacted by removing all links to The Bollard from its home page. The Bangor paper has several similar partnerships with other news outlets, and its decision to ban all content (including this blog) seems shortsighted and could result in those operations hesitating to pursue reporting on controversial subjects for fear they’ll experience a similar fate. The Bangor Daily should have a clear policy on how it handles articles from its partners that don’t meet its standards, preferably a set of rules that doesn’t result in total blackouts. It should also alert readers when it makes a major change in its online offerings and explain why.
Self-promotion I: Michael Cuzzi writes a political column for the Maine Sunday Telegram. It carries a disclaimer identifying him as a former campaign worker for Democratic candidates and as an executive at the Portland office of a public-relations and lobbying firm. Most weeks that would appear to be sufficient.
But not on Oct. 14.
On that date, Cuzzi devoted his space to energy policy, encouraging Republican Gov. Paul LePage to embrace renewable sources of power.
“Natural gas will dominate the marketplace for years to come and has a rightful place in Maine’s future energy mix,” Cuzzi wrote. “But Maine’s long-term energy security, environmental health and economic potential will be assured by simultaneously growing and maturing Maine’s renewable energy sector.”
What Cuzzi doesn’t mention is that he specializes in renewable energy development. According to his company’s website, “Mike works collaboratively with clients in the natural resources, renewable energy, utility and economic development sectors. He is an expert at developing and executing communications campaigns that help shape public opinion and legislative policies through targeted communications with voters, elected officials, traditional and new media, third parties, and other key audiences.”
That makes this column seem less like commentary and more like an advertisement for current or prospective clients.
Self-promotion II: After the Oct. 14 Maine Sunday Telegram ran a generally complimentary piece on Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill, her campaign sent out an e-mail blast noting that she had posted the entire piece on her Facebook page. She also took the opportunity to take a swipe at independent opponent Angus King, who had edited negative references from his Telegram profile before posting it.
“Don’t worry,” Dill wrote, “we don’t excerpt the candidate profile like one of my opponents did in an apparent attempt to make himself look better. I welcome unvarnished press coverage and have proudly declared accountability and transparency to be the twin pillars of my campaign.”
Well, up to a point. Nowhere on her website or Facebook page has Dill dared post more critical pieces, such as the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting’s debunking of her claims of job creation.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.