Media Mutt

MPBN Misses Big Budget Story

by Al Diamon

Sleeping late: There was a time when the Maine Public Broadcasting Network scooped everybody on stories about the state budget. Capitol News Service’s Mal Leary stayed up all night to cover deliberations of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee, and public radio carried his reports, often live, on its morning news, long before newspapers, TV or fledgling websites caught up.

But these days, Leary is running MPBN’s unedited TV coverage of the Legislature. His replacement on the budget beat: nobody.

On June 7, when the committee convened at 5:30 a.m., after all-night, behind-the-scenes negotiations, the Bangor Daily News was there and posted a story about the unanimous budget agreement that had been reached. The MaineToday Media papers were also on the job, and had an online article available long before most of us awakened.

Maine Public Radio had zilch. No live report. No wire service copy. Not even a rewrite of what was available on websites. Its own site hadn’t been updated at mid-morning.

It’s bad enough MPBN takes weekends off from covering news. It’s inexcusable when it can’t stay up late enough on weeknights to get an important story.

Shocking, shocking – or not: MaineToday Media Washington bureau chief Kevin Miller reported on June 6 that independent Eliot Cutler had informally announced in a radio interview that he’s going to make another run for governor next year.

In his second paragraph, Miller says the news comes as “no surprise,” since Cutler has been gearing up for a 2014 campaign ever since his narrow loss in 2010. But in his fourth paragraph, Miller says, “Asked whether he will run, Cutler surprised the [radio] hosts when he replied simply, ‘I am.’”

Either WGAN’s Ken and Mike are remarkably uninformed, or Miller and his editors weren’t paying much attention to the words he’s using in his report.

(Thanks to Ted Cohen, former journalist and gadfly extraordinaire, for tipping me off to this item.)

Something smells: Speaking of not paying attention, the June 5 edition of the Original Irregular, a weekly paper from Kingfield, managed to misspell the last name of newly elected Eustis School Board member Sarah Strunk – the paper called her “Stunk” – both on its cover and in a photo caption on page six. The Irregular did get it right in the accompanying story.

Welcome to Purtland: New Portland Press Herald summer intern Karen Antonacci, in her June 6 online posting on the Facebook fight over a confrontation between a bicyclist and a local TV public-access-show host, managed to misspell the name of a landmark Portland restaurant and the family that owns it. Fortunately, Antonacci’s use of “DeMillo” and “DeMillo’s” had been replaced by the more familiar “DiMillo” and “DiMillo’s” by the time the piece saw print.

Maybe there’s a functioning copy editor somewhere, after all.

Good stuff: For a first-rate take on how the biker-TV host controversy was handled – and mishandled – by the participants, check out public relations guy Dennis Bailey’s sharp analysis.

For a long-overdue report on whether the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee regularly violates the state’s open-meeting law, read Lewiston Sun Journal State House reporter Scott Thistle’s June 5 piece on the questionable practice of closed-door caucuses. Everyone who’s ever observed this biennial ritual knows most of the important decisions on the state budget get made out of public view, but reporters have traditionally shied away from challenging that tradition. Here’s hoping this signals an end to that timidity.

Goodbye: Associated Press State House correspondent (and the only AP reporter left in Augusta after years of cutbacks) Glenn Adams is retiring after 32 years on the beat.

A little more institutional memory fades away.

Al Diamon can be emailed at

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