Better Late Than Never?
by Al Diamon
Old news: Maine’s two largest daily newspapers seem to be holding a contest to see which one can ignore the other the longest.
In the past week, both the MaineToday Media papers (Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel) and the Bangor Daily News have devoted plenty of space to their own scoops – and no coverage at all for several days to their rival’s hot news. It’s almost as if their editors had deluded themselves into believing that if they ignored what the competing paper was publishing, so would the public.
On March 16, MaineToday broke the story that the federal Department of Defense might be considering northern Maine for a missile-interceptor base.
The Bangor Daily waited until March 20 to acknowledge that possible development in its own backyard, and then, only by gathering reaction to what MTM had already reported (without acknowledging those earlier stories).
Meanwhile, MaineToday was busy pretending a story the Bangor paper owned didn’t exist. On March 18, the BDN reported that the Maine State Lottery was considering branding its instant tickets as “Kwikies.” The proposed name was met with reactions ranging from disdain to outage to satire (one wag suggested the scratch tickets be referred to as “hand jobs”). But at MaineToday headquarters in Portland, all was silence, until March 20 – well after the Bangor Daily had already reported the idea was dead – when columnist Bill Nemitz discovered the now-defunct matter.
Pretending the opposition doesn’t exist doesn’t work. Behaving this way is tantamount to encouraging news consumers to increase their reliance on online aggregators, because those parasitic sites don’t care whose scoop it is, so long as it’s interesting.
Re-Wired: The Maine Wire, until now the predictably conservative propaganda service of the Maine Heritage Policy Center, may be trying to upgrade its product to provide real news. It’s hired S.E. Robinson, a writer for several national right-wing publications and websites, to do investigative reports.
While Robinson’s biases are obvious, his work to date is worth taking notice of. In a piece on a lawsuit filed against S. Donald Sussman, the majority owner of MaineToday Media, he digs through piles of court documents concerning a housing development project gone wrong.
Robinson even tried to call Sussman and the other people involved (although none of them returned his call), a bit of standard journalistic practice the Maine Wire has mostly ignored since its inception. Robinson did let spin take control when he included Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree’s name in his lead, since it appears Pingree, who’s married to Sussman, isn’t a party in the suit.
One slightly flawed story won’t be enough to transform the Maine Wire into a real journalistic outlet. But if this is the start of a trend, that result won’t seem quite as outrageous as it did in the recent past.
Also, it’ll be interesting to see how long it takes Sussman’s own newspapers pick up on this scoop.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com.