What the Governor Reads for News
by Al Diamon
Canceled subscriptions: There was a time not so long ago when huge bundles of daily newspapers were delivered to the State House complex in Augusta every morning. Nearly every office received copies of the Bangor Daily News, the Portland Press Herald, the Kennebec Journal and the Lewiston Sun (it wasn’t yet the Sun Journal). An underling in the governor’s press office was assigned the duty of clipping relevant material from all those publications and photocopying a daily packet of information that was distributed to top officials in the executive branch.
Today, the process is different. For one thing, the governor’s office (and most of state government) no longer subscribes to any daily papers. According to the new website OpenCheckBook.Maine.gov, which provides detailed information on state spending, Gov. Paul LePage spent just $42.95 in the past year on Maine newspapers. That was for a subscription to Mainebiz.
This shouldn’t come as any surprise. In 2011, LePage told an audience in Rockport, “Buying a Maine daily newspaper is like paying someone to lie to you.” Last month, he told students in Winslow, “My greatest fear in the state of Maine: newspapers. I’m not a fan of newspapers.”
So, does LePage get all his information from radio and TV, which he claims don’t “spin” the news the way those evil print journalists do (translation: broadcast reporters rarely know enough to question whatever the governor spoon feeds them)? Not exactly.
According to Julie Rabinowitz, communications director for the state Department of Labor, LePage’s press office monitors all the newspapers, “mostly online.”
“We’re reading,” Rabinowitz said. “Please don’t indicate we’re not reading.”
LePage’s chief spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, still prepares a daily summary of key news from the papers, based on what’s on their websites, according to Rabinowitz. But the governor’s hands are never besmirched by the newsprint and ink still used by his occasionally skeptical whipping boys.
Mistakes and their aftermath: Feb. 6 was a good day for bad errors at Maine dailies. The days that followed showed there’s a serious difference in how some newspapers handle their screw-ups.
The Bangor Daily News’ Judy Harrison got it dead wrong in her story on part of the state’s congressional delegation forming a panel to screen potential candidates for a federal judgeship. The original version of her article said the “Democratic members” had put the group together and named them as “Sen. Angus King and Reps. Michael Michaud and Chellie Pingree.”
As just about everyone knows (and every journalist ought to), King is an independent. The Bangor paper ran a correction in print the next day and fixed the wording in the online version (although it didn’t note the change, as it usually does with mistakes such as this).
Contrast that with how the Portland Press Herald dealt with its fumble. It ran an op-ed on tax cuts written by Les Fossel of Alna. It identified Fossel as “Rep. Les Fossel” and said he was a “member of the Maine House of Representatives.”
In reality, Fossel is an ex-member. He lost a bid for a state Senate seat in last November’s election and no longer serves in the Legislature.
Someone must have noticed the inaccuracy, because the online version was updated to note in its tagline that Fossel is a “former” legislator. But the byline at the top still uses the title he no longer holds, and to date, there hasn’t been a correction in print.
Bad enough to be sloppy or ignorant once. But to fail to own up to it just makes it worse.
There’s ink on my sheets: Is this some kind of trend? Old newspaper headquarters in Maine are being turned into hotels.
The new owners of the Portland Press Herald’s building on Congress Street are well on their way to converting it into a boutique hotel that may feature a newspaper theme (will bellboys break down the doors of rooms occupied by those engaged in trysts and take photos of the participants with their pants down?).
Meanwhile, the Bangor Daily News has finally announced what everybody already knew, which is that it’s selling its headquarters on Main Street to a subsidiary of Ocean Properties, a developer and owner of luxury hotels and resorts.
While the new owner hasn’t revealed its plans for the site, it’s likely it will use the location next to the new civic center and across from a casino for some sort of lodging and eatery.
According to word given to staff last month, the Bangor paper has eight months to find new digs and is actively looking for space downtown.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.