Op-ed? Advertising? Does the Bangor Daily News Know the Difference?
by Al Diamon
Welcome to Chez Dill: If you want lots of free publicity for your fledgling business, here’s a tip. Write a self-serving op-ed for the Bangor Daily News. On Sept. 12, failed Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Cynthia Dill figured out that ploy and published what amounts to a folksy advertisement for her family’s new bed and breakfast.
Headlined “It’s a soap opera running an Airbnb with my thrifty New England husband,” the piece explains how Dill overcame her grief and depression at losing the 2012 Senate race by a landslide, had a yard sale and opened her B&B. After several gushing quotes from her guests (“Cynthia took great care in giving us fresh dishes and rinsed out the coffee pot for us each morning”), Dill relates how her husband hates to throw out used soap. She concludes, “As long as we can reinvent ourselves to serve and bring comfort to others, the American Dream lives on, I’m happy to report.”
I’m pretty sure she wasn’t being ironic.
The Bangor Daily needs to be more selective about its op-ed choices. Or it could just turn the space over to the advertising department.
Speaking of running ads as news: Most of the state’s newspapers and websites do an incredibly poor job of covering legislative candidates’ announcements. I’ve complained in the past (to no avail) that whenever somebody announces a run for the state House or Senate, the media have a long history of essentially printing press releases, rather than writing real news stories.
As a matter of routine, these stories lack key facts, apparently because the candidate who sent out the release doesn’t want anything in his or her announcement that might alienate any voters. He or she is aided in this attempt at non-offensiveness by lazy reporters and editors, who don’t bother to fill in the gaping holes.
Take, for example, the Sept. 10 story by Bangor Daily News staff writer Nick McCrea on the impending state Senate candidacy of former Bangor City Councilor Cary Weston. Here are some questions McCrea neglected to answer for his readers:
What party does Weston belong to (this information was added the day after the story was posted online)? Who holds the seat now (again, the incumbent’s name was stuck in much later)? Is that person running? Is anybody else considering getting in the race? Does the district lean one way or the other politically? Are there major local issues that might impact the contest? Didn’t this race attract record spending by both parties in 2012? Is that likely to happen again? Why or why not?
A little reporting. A little history. A little context. Suddenly, you don’t have a regurgitated press release, anymore. You have a little journalism.
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 email@example.com.