Media Mutt

Press Herald Forgets to Print Big Story

by Al Diamon

Omit hermit: The big story in Maine on April 10 in terms of local, national and international interest was the Kennebec Journal’s tale of the “North Pond Hermit.” Staff writer Craig Crosby and his editors put together a compelling piece about the arrest of the man who appears to have disappeared into the woods 27 years ago, surviving quite nicely by robbing camps. The crew at the KJ is to be commended for assembling all the details, including video, in just a few hours, and putting it in attention-grabbing shape.

Meanwhile, at the KJ’s sister paper, the Portland Press Herald, the situation was not quite as well organized. The hermit story made it on the Press Herald’s website without difficulty, but it somehow didn’t show up in the print edition.

According to sources at the paper, it was an oversight of massive proportions. Print editors simply forgot about the piece until after the last edition had gone to press. When the mistake was discovered, the gnashing of teeth could be heard all the way to Augusta.

I’m told new protocols are being put in place to prevent this from happening again, just in case there are more petty criminals hiding in the Maine woods.

Bach in town: W-BACH, the small network of commercial classical-music stations along Maine’s coast, all but vanished last year when its owner, Nassau Broadcasting, was forced to sell off its assets at a bankruptcy auction.

The outlet in southern Maine was purchased by Mainestream Media, which converted it to hip hop music. Binnie Media bought the other two stations in Rockland and Ellsworth, and promptly sold off the Ellsworth signal. That left only 106.6 FM in the Midcoast carrying the highbrow format, which meant it couldn’t be heard in Portland.

That will change on April 15, when Binnie begins pumping the W-BACH programming out on 96.9 FM from a tower on the Eastland Hotel in downtown Portland. While the signal will only be 500 watts, it will more effectively blanket the metro area than the old coverage out of Kennebunk, according to Binnie general manager Pat Collins.

“For the first time, you’ll be able to hear it in office buildings downtown,” Collins said.

The new frequency should allow W-BACH to be heard from Saco to Falmouth and inland through Westbrook.

The 96.9 frequency is currently being used as a repeater to air country music from Binnie’s The Wolf (99.9 FM). Because that station has HD subchannels, it’s legally able to use one of them to carry W-BACH. That means those with HD radios (both of you) can also pick up the classical format all over southern and central Maine, a much wider area than the analog W-BACH ever reached.

As for whether classical radio is commercially viable in a era when there are so many choices for personal listening, Collins has no doubts.

“It works in Portland,” he said. “It always did. Portland is the cultural hub of the state.”

LePage enrager: The Lewiston Sun Journal does a lot of things poorly, but I keep my subscription because, once or twice a week, it puts out some absolutely kick-ass investigative work. The latest example: a killer piece on April 11 by staff writer Christopher Williams on how Republican Gov. Paul LePage is alleged to have pressured workers in the state Department of Labor to deny more unemployment claims.

Williams nails down the details, even though the employees involved were unwilling to talk on the record. Meanwhile, managing editor Judith Meyer contributed a stunning sidebar on the legal implications of exerting such political pressure.

This is thorough, compelling and important work revealing what has all the appearances of a major scandal. The rest of the state’s media should have the courage to jump on this with everything they’ve got.

As for the Sun Journal, sign me up for another year.

Guide arrives: The nonprofit Maine People’s Resource Center’s biennial Citizen’s Guide to the Maine Legislature is no longer being printed, but the latest edition covering the current 126th Legislature is available online.

While still useful, this version of the guide is but a shell of its former self. It still gives contact information, electoral history, ratings by special interests and links to news articles about each of the state’s 186 senators and representatives. But the editorial content – covering positions taken during campaigns, key votes, controversies, telling quotes – is missing.

And sorely missed.

Booze news you can use: I’ve covered Maine’s inept managing of liquor sales for years, and I still learned a lot by reading Lewiston Sun Journal staff writer Kathryn Skelton’s April 4 story on how the whole mess operates and what’s being proposed to improve the situation.

First-rate reporting that even teetotalers will find enlightening.

Booze news you can’t use: For the Portland Press Herald to allow freelancer Emma Bouthillette to review bars for the weekly Go entertainment supplement is the equivalent of hiring a hearing-impaired person to critique music.

Al Diamon can be emailed at

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