Media Mutt

A Week Late, A Few Facts Short

by Al Diamon

Too few lines on the new lines: Maine reporters were in no rush to cover the once-a-decade redistricting of the Legislature. Both the MaineToday Media newspapers and the Bangor Daily News waited a full week to publish a story after the commission responsible for redrawing the lines to conform with population shifts completed its work on the Maine House of Representatives. Both news organizations’ articles lumped the House changes in with the state Senate. Both made it seem as if the alterations were no big deal, even though they affected nearly every district in the state. And neither mentioned that at least four legislators ended up in districts where they’ll have to face another incumbent if they run for re-election.

One other thing: Both of them got scooped by the Maine Progressives Warehouse website, which had maps of the two redrawn chambers online a full day before the big guys. Maine Progressives’ maps were simpler to use, too, allowing easy expansion to show what towns had been shifted where.

Speaking of running late: When a former Waterville man, who now lives in New Hampshire, was arrested in Bowdoinham for trying to kidnap a child, it didn’t become news for a solid week.

The incident occurred on May 22. The intrepid press got wind of it on May 29.

What this shows is that most news organizations are no longer paying close attention to local police. Instead, they wait for the cops to come to them with potential stories. Law enforcement is always happy to do this when the incidents in question reflect well on its members. When there’s some question about how events were handled, they’re far less likely to alert the news media.

That’s why checking carefully is important. Or, failing that labor-intensive method of finding stories, journalists might consider developing good sources among not only the police, but also lawyers, court clerks and others who can alert them to newsworthy activity. At least, that’s the way it used to be done.

Which doesn’t explain why it’s worth more: Newsstand prices for Maine dailies are going up next week. MaineToday Media’s Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal will cost an extra half buck on Sundays, bringing them to $2 a copy. Unofficial sources say the daily papers, including the Portland Press Herald, will also seek a hike, probably from a dollar to $1.25. The Maine Sunday Telegram is scheduled to increase in cover price, as well, with a particularly large increase in parts of the state outside Greater Portland.

The Bangor Daily News is rumored to be following suit, although no date has been announced.

Say it ain’t so, Joe: I don’t know much about new MaineToday Media staff writer Joe Lawlor (summer intern? full-timer?), but his June 2 debut was less than impressive.

Lawlor, who didn’t return a phone call seeking comment, told the story of a Springvale couple facing financial disaster after losing Medicaid benefits. And that’s all he told. The piece might have provided some insight into policy decisions if Lawlor or his editors had bothered to contact administrators, the governor’s office or key legislators to get their thoughts on this case.

Without that perspective, this comes off as propaganda.

Lawlor’s sidebar on a study examining whether expanding Medicaid saves states money was better, but could have been much improved if he’d asked Republican and Democratic legislative leaders for their reactions. In fact, with a bit more effort, this piece would have merited front-page play, instead of being inside filler.

Too little information: I’m sometimes at a loss to understand the thinking behind how people who write op-eds are identified in the Portland Press Herald. On June 1, the paper published a piece about resolving the impasse over expanding Medicaid by Trish Riley, who was identified only as being “a resident of Brunswick.”

That’s sort of like saying Bill Clinton is just a resident of New York.

Riley was the director of the Governor’s Office of Health Policy and Finance in the administration of former Democratic Gov. John Baldacci. She was also the person most responsible for developing the now nearly defunct Dirigo Health program.

Another sentence or two would have lent some perspective to her views.

Al Diamon can be emailed at

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