Letting George Smith Run Wild
by Al Diamon
SAM I am not: There appears to be some upheaval on the board of directors of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. I use the word “appears” because my only source of information on the resignation of two longtime board members and one recent addition is a blog posting by former SAM executive director George Smith. Smith – who, since becoming a journalist of sorts, has had a contentious relationship with his former employer – doesn’t bother to explain why the three board members called it quits, other than to say one of them didn’t like the organization’s “new direction.” He also doesn’t provide any information on whether the resignations were related.
In short, his posting comes off as a thinly veiled attack on SAM’s current administration, with whom Smith has had his differences.
There’s nothing wrong with Smith expressing his opinions, but there is something wrong with the way the Bangor Daily News, which hosts Smith’s blog, is handling this matter.
First off, the BDN originally posted the piece about the resignations on its home page with no designation that it was a blog entry. Even though that label was added within a couple of hours, it was initially presented as a news story. This isn’t the first time Smith’s stuff has shown up online without being properly noted as bloggage. In fact, it’s not uncommon for op-eds and blog entries from lots of writers to be posted on the newspaper’s website with nothing to indicate they aren’t straight news. When I’ve brought this to the attention of Bangor Daily editors, I’ve been told these postings are “an oversight,” “a technical glitch” or “a one-time error.” Nevertheless, such misleading entries persist.
More disturbing is that in spite of his obvious conflict of interest, Smith seems to have the SAM beat to himself. Neither the BDN nor any other media outlet has bothered to follow up on his information to find out what’s really going on at perhaps the most powerful special interest group in Maine. There’s some real reporting to be done here. But no real reporters are doing it.
Psychic news: While I’m on the subject of the Bangor Daily’s bloggers, mention should be made of a May 15 posting by Carol McCracken, who writes about Portland’s Munjoy Hill neighborhood. McCracken reported that the city’s Public Art Committee had narrowly voted to oppose plans for a hotel developer to take ownership of a small public park in Congress Square. She noted that the committee’s position would be conveyed to the Congress Square Redesign Study Group.
“The CSRSG will vote on the proposal,” McCracken wrote, “and make a recommendation against the proposal to the HCDC [I think this stands for the City Council’s Housing and Community Development Committee, although the story doesn’t say] and City Council.”
McCracken doesn’t explain how she knows the group’s recommendation will be negative, since it won’t meet and vote until next week. But I don’t need to be clairvoyant to know this blog needs some serious editorial oversight.
Attention to ethical detail: Bangor Daily reporter Judy Harrison deserves credit for making sure her May 16 story on a man charged with stealing money from charitable organizations contained an essential detail. In her last sentence, Harrison mentioned that the BDN helped raise some of the cash that was allegedly stolen.
A lot of journalists would have overlooked that little point, but it’s important that the information be included to mitigate claims of bias or conflict of interest.
Sunday kind of feeling: Reliable sources say the Journal Tribune in Biddeford is starting a Sunday paper. The first issue is due out June 16. According to the owners of two businesses that were contacted about advertising, the publication will be free initially, although plans call for paid circulation eventually.
JT publisher Jim Freeland did not return a phone call seeking confirmation.
Al Diamon can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.