Monks and Weasels
by Al Diamon
Discontinued disclaimer: I’m now inclined to think the Portland Press Herald’s continuing refusal to note the role of Robert C.S. Monks in stories it covers is deliberate. The latest case of non-disclosure came on March 9 in a story by staff writer Edward D. Murphy about a settlement reached by the state Division of Parks and Public Lands and the Sprague Corp. on a lease for a large part of Crescent Beach State Park in Cape Elizabeth.
As mentioned here many times previously, Monks, according to his website, is chairman of the board of the Black Point Corp., which owns the Sprague Corp. The site also lists him as a board member of MaineToday Media, which owns the Press Herald.
That’s not incidental involvement by Monks in the park-land matter. It’s playing a major role in a deal that will cost taxpayers a half-million dollars over the next five years.
Since the Portland paper has repeatedly ignored standard journalistic ethics in covering stories that touch on Monks’ many business interests, I can only conclude that’s on purpose. What I can’t figure out is why a media outlet that’s already struggling with credibility issues due to the political activities of its majority owner and his wife would deliberately do itself even more damage by covering up for a minor player like Monks.
Underdone overview: I’ve long been mildly curious about what’s behind the political upheaval that continually rocks the town of Old Orchard Beach. The place goes through top municipal officials faster than a pro-legalized-marijuana advocate devours organic corn chips. But most of the coverage has been pretty superficial: another town manager canned, another finance director hits the road, another angry crowd shouting during meetings.
Plenty of who, what and where. Hardly any why.
On March 11, the Portland Press Herald ran a story by staff writer Gillian Graham that attempted to put the controversy in OOB in context. Except, it didn’t.
Graham gives us some history — four town managers in a decade, five finance directors in 15 months — but no hint as to what’s behind all the clashes. She talked to many of the players, but came away with no insight into the politics (or whatever it is — the water, maybe) that makes the beach resort community so governmentally unstable.
The result: a rehash of what we already knew, with no effort to get beyond the obvious.
There’s no myth like an old myth: There are certain legends that continue to circulate in this state’s media in spite of having no basis in fact:
Maine is larger than the rest of New England combined.
Portland has more restaurants per capita than any other city except San Francisco.
Portland has more lawyers per capita than any other city except Washington, D.C.
Maine features the easternmost point in the Untied States.
The first three of those are demonstrably false. The fourth is technically disputable, since Alaska touches the International Date Line, which is as far east or west as you can go.
Another longtime article of this false faith was the statement that Bath Iron Works is Maine’s largest private employer. That might have been true a couple of decades ago, but the claim has long since been disproved. Nevertheless, it continues to crop up, most recently in the March 10 “Washington Notebook” column from MaineToday Media’s Washington bureau chief, Kevin Miller.
According to state figures from 2012, BIW is the fourth largest employer in Maine, with 5,001 to 5,500 worker, well behind Hannaford Supermarkets (over 7,500), Walmart (7,000+) and Maine Medical Center (6,000). Mainebiz’s 2013 “Book of Lists” (based on 2011 data) has the shipyard in fifth place, with L.L. Bean ahead of all but Hannaford.
Now that this matter is cleared up, let’s get to all those Bigfoot sightings.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.