LePage Admin gives Democrat-owned media silent treatment

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Maine Today Media Logo
Maine Today Media operates three of Maine’s largest newspapers and is owned by billionaire Democratic Party financier S. Donald Sussman

AUGUSTA – Reporters from three of Maine’s largest newspapers will no longer have access to Gov. Paul LePage or his communications staff following his administration’s decision to stop indulging a news service that nowadays seems more like an extension of the Democratic Party.

LePage Press Secretary Adrienne Bennett broke the news to the Portland Press Herald’s top political reporter Steve Mistler  on Tuesday. Mistler, she said, was speechless.

Mistler declined to comment on this story and attempts to reach his editors for comment were unsuccessful.

“We’ve been monitoring this for a long time,” said Bennett.

She said that over the past several months the administration had noticed a pattern of bias in the reporting of the Press Herald, the Waterville Morning Sentinel and the Kennebec Journal.

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All three newspapers are run by Maine Today Media (MTM), a company owned by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and billionaire husband S. Donald Sussman. Sussman is one of the largest donors to Democratic causes and candidates in the state of Maine.

One aspect of the bias, Bennett said, is that MTM reporters have stopped including standard conflict-of-interest disclaimers when reporting on matters related to Pingree and Sussman.

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But she said the larger problem is MTM’s consistently biased reporting about LePage.

“If it’s a good story about the governor, they’ll use a 200-word Associated Press story,” she said. “But if it is viewed as a negative story, then one of their reporters will give it three or four pages and it’s front page news.”

On Feb. 8, for example, following LePage’s surprise appearance at a gun rights rally near the State House, an MTM paper reported on the crowd’s cheerful meeting with the governor via an Associated Press (AP) story rather than a staff writer.

In another instance, MTM ran a front-page story about Bennett’s attempt to contact conservative legends Howie Carr and Bill O’Reilly to share LePage’s thoughts on the 2nd Amendment. Based on emails obtained through Freedom of Access Act Requests, the report revealed a shocking truth: someone in government was doing their job.

But Bennett said Colin Woodard’s recent series on Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Patricia Aho was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

In dozens of pages even an environmentalist will find tough reading, Woodard, an award-winning journalist, resurrects a two-year-old blog post in order to promote the Democratic Party’s narrative that LePage is a pawn of corporate lobbyists who want to ruin the environment and poison children.

Bennett said MTM reporters will no longer be allowed in the governor’s cabinet room and will have to get their news from official press releases rather than conversations with the governor’s staff.

Ted Cohen, who served as a Press Herald reporter from 1975 to 2004, said the LePage’s administration’s actions are unprecedented but would not significantly change the contents of the MTM newspapers.

“I’ve never heard of a media organization being shutout as a result of what is claimed to be clearly biased coverage,” said Cohen. “But let me ask you this – Is anyone going to notice that the Maine Today Media papers are not getting input from the Governor?” he asked. “I don’t think so.”

As for how MTM’s editors and reporters should respond to the administration’s policy change, Cohen said they ought to ignore it.

“They should pretend that no such edict was ever issued,” he said. “Any reporter worth his or her salt who has to depend on a source – in this case the Governor – for information required for a story is missing the point. A good reporter can always find an alternate source of information. The shutting out of a reporter by a certain source should make that reporter all the more resourceful.”

S.E. Robinson
Maine Wire Reporter
serobinson@themainewire.com

1 COMMENT

  1. What is most stunning about this gubernatorial blackout is that the newspaper’s editors refused to make themselves available to Mr. Robinson, who professionally reached out to them so as to include their side of the story in his piece.

    A news outlet depends on people talking to stay in business.

    So when the tide is turned the editors go mum and run for the hills?

    Moreover, by boycotting The Maine Wire the Maine Media editors are behaving in the same exact way that they accuse the governor of behaving – petulantly.

    The irony is quite unsettling.

  2. Except that for anyone that has read any of Steve Robinson’s “work,” they know that “professionalism” is not a word that would be associated with it.

  3. Does The Maine Heritage Policy Center have political leanings? (Serious question. I was a journalist in Maine but have been gone from the state for nearly 20 years. Looking for information, not a fight.)

  4. As long as this fine family of newspapers continue to selectively scrub their website comments sections – they don’t have a leg to stand on.
    In regards to Mr. Woodwards articles, they have a singular focus on the current head of the DEP. If he did some homework, he’d find every governor has appointed people with debatable “allegiences”. Take a look at the PUC, seriously. 2 of the 3 PUC commissioners currently serving appear to be yesmen & rubberstamps for whatever the power companies want. They are Baldacci appointees. Just saying……

  5. Ted Cohen – thank you.

    Does anyone doubt the Sussman Corner Office has issued marching (and speaking/writing) orders to the MTM staff?

    Like I keep saying — I’m waiting for the Woodard piece exploring Bloomberg’s illegal “Americans Elect” PAC, which spent $1.7M in Maine to send King Angus to the US Senate — with Cutler listed on the AE board of directors. Unregistered with the feds and state as a PAC.

    Where’s that “horrible scandal” piece from Woodard?

  6. Ted Cohen – thank you.

    Does anyone doubt the Sussman Corner Office has issued marching (and speaking/writing) orders to the MTM staff?

    Like I keep saying — I’m waiting for the Woodard piece exploring Bloomberg’s illegal “Americans Elect” PAC, which spent $1.7M in Maine to send King Angus to the US Senate — with Cutler listed on the AE board of directors. Unregistered with the feds and state as a PAC.

    Where’s that “horrible scandal” piece from Woodard?

  7. Your catty gossipy comments can’t deter LePage’s brilliant—not my view, but Bill Diamond’s, political moves. I guess that’s why only 14 people ‘liked’ your FACEBOOK page.

  8. Once LePage’s re-election became a real possibility; the Sussman/Pingree axis of malevolent media—-can’t call it journalism, because it really violates every newspaper man’s credo, sprung into action with a grandiose scheme to discredit the LePage accomplishments.

    Judging by the scope and depth of this ‘hatchet job’ Woodard has a full research team secretly interviewing discontented DEP zealots and preparing briefing papers to support Woodard’s innuendo attacks on Oho’s credibility.

    One wonders whether Cutler will be held to the same standard of injustice; like all of his old Chinese clients or that board membership scandal on the corrupt Norwegian company who was held criminally liable in Chile?

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