Media Mutt

Sun Journal’s Sad Sunday (and Monday)

by Al Diamon

Taking the day off: This isn’t the first time I’ve complained about the Lewiston Sun Journal’s tendency to put out newspapers with no staff-produced stories on the front page. In fact, that situation occurs with distressing frequency. Until now, though, the exception had always been the Sunday paper that regularly featured a strong – often exceptional – piece of enterprise journalism on page one.

But on Sept. 8, the lazy-ass attitude that seems to inform many of the Sun Journal’s editorial decisions reached new depths. The front page consisted on three Associated Press stories, none of them about Maine, and one lengthy piece explaining the Affordable Care Act that was produced by the Bangor Daily News and had run in that paper the day before.

To be fair, the Bangor and Lewiston papers are combining resources for a series on the ACA. The second part, produced by the Sun Journal, ran in both publications on Sept. 9. But that doesn’t explain why the Lewiston paper waited an extra day to run part one. And it doesn’t excuse the Sun Journal from not having bothered to produce anything of its own to appear out front.

This is pretend newspapering on the cheap.

By the way, the health care story was the only staff-produced piece on the Monday front page, bringing the two-day average down to one half.

To further reduce the value of the Sun Journal, the opinion piece on libertarianism (from Bloomberg News) that topped the Sept. 9 editorial page had appeared at the bottom of the Perspective page in the previous day’s paper.

Apparently, the editors thought it was so good, we’d want to read it twice.

Hidden agenda: Here’s a footnote to my article in the September print edition of The Bollard on conflicts of interest that haunt many of the state’s political columnists.

As Portland Press Herald columnist Alan Caron pointed out in my piece, it’s important for politicos-turned-opinion-writers to make their biases known to readers, in particular being clear about which candidates, if any, they’re backing. I was reminded of that comment when I read a story in the Sept. 9 Press Herald on the longstanding friendship between Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud, a candidate for governor, and Republican state chairman Rick Bennett. It contains reaction from former independent state Sen. Jill Goldthwait, who, according to staff writer Steve Mistler, “hasn’t donated to any of the gubernatorial candidates. She declined to say whom she was supporting in 2014 because she writes a political newspaper column.”

If that’s accurate, readers of the Ellsworth American and Mount Desert Islander, where Goldthwait’s column appears, should be alert for subtle signs of bias. And those weekly papers’ editors should be wary of running an opinion piece that may be advocating for someone or something that’s not obvious.

Disclaimer disappears – again: MaineToday Media Washington bureau chief Kevin Miller – and his editors – have occasionally forgotten to include a disclaimer when writing about Democratic U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who’s married to S. Donald Sussman, majority owner of MaineToday. When I’ve pointed this out, I’ve usually been assured it was merely an oversight. But it’s an oversight that keeps occurring.

The latest example appeared Sept. 6, in a Miller piece on the Maine congressional delegation’s reaction to proposals for attacks on the Syrian government. Pingree is quoted several times in the story with no mention of her husband’s ties to the newspapers that carried it.

In addition to serving as The Bollard’s media critic, Al Diamon writes a weekly political column that runs in the Portland Phoenix, the Downeast Coastal Press, the Daily Bulldog, some Mainely Media weeklies and some Current Publishing papers. He also writes columns for a couple of Current’s magazines. He can be emailed at

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