When Steve Collins, the new reporter for the Lewiston Sun Journal was hired, most Maine politicos had never heard of him. The Sun Journal story on their new employee spoke in glowing terms about him:
An award-winning journalist, Collins comes to Maine from Connecticut where he was most recently employed at The Bristol Press, covering government and politics in the Hartford area.
Naturally, we all wondered what the new gumshoe would bring to the Maine political scene, and started inquiring about him. The reviews we got from the folks in Connecticut painted a rather dark and troubling picture. Collins, they said, was a hopelessly biased liberal reporter intent on using his status to advance favored politicians and his liberal ideology.
Then we learned more about him. Turns out his quit his last job at The Bristol Press because he was disgusted with the owner of his paper, Michael Schroeder, for being closely linked with Las Vegas billionaire and conservative donor Sheldon Adelson. (Don’t hold your breath for whether or not he would have had any problem working for liberal billionaire and activist donor Donald Sussman, if he owned Sun Journal.)
In his “why I quit” manifesto, Collins made clear that journalism to him wasn’t simply a profession, but an ideological crusade. In describing a youth journalism charity that he helped found, Collins described his mentorship of young journalists as follows:
One of the things we emphasize is that journalism is not just a career, it is a calling, that it requires those who join its ranks to stand up for what’s right even when it is difficult.
“Standing up for what is right” is political activism, not reporting. Being a hard news reporter requires a level of objectivity and agnosticism that stands in direct conflict with “standing up for what’s right.” This philosophy is, in fact, one of the biggest problems with journalism today. Young journalists view the profession as a tool for social justice and cultural warfare, rather than as a duty bound profession meant to inform the public.
Unsurprisingly, there is a lot more to the story. But that is a tale for another time.
Still, concerning as all that was, it isn’t really fair to judge someone without knowing them, based entirely on rumor, so we held our breath and hoped what we had heard was an exaggeration.
Unfortunately, Friday we found out that Collins was a bigger hack than we had heard he was.
On Thursday, Congressman Bruce Poliquin visited the New Balance shoe factory in Norway to talk to the workers there about his efforts to protect manufacturing jobs. The appearance was part official, and part campaign, meant to highlight Poliquin’s work in Congress on behalf of New Balance and manufacturers.
Collins got wind (gee, I wonder how) that at the event, a temporary worker named Josh Lebovitz refused to shake Poliquin’s hand, and later found out that he would not be invited back to his temporary position at the factory.
And so an article was written, breathlessly painting Poliquin as some kind of heartless monster, relying entirely on the perspective of Lebovitz, giving his perverted account and printing his speculative theories as to his termination with no balance whatsoever. No skepticism. No questions asked about Lebovitz, his motives, or his crackpot rantings.
Collins’ intent was clear from the beginning, spoken entirely in the title of the article: “New Balance worker loses job, blames Rep. Bruce Poliquin visit.”
The implication was simple: Bruce Poliquin, the scumbag, got this guy fired.
Let’s be perfectly clear here. This article is a hit job on Poliquin, and a disgusting one. The Sun Journal should be ashamed of themselves for printing it, and Collins deserves to be called out as the liberal shill that he is.
Let’s start with the second paragraph:
By the end of the day, however, he was out of a job, perhaps as a result of the visit, according to Lebovitz.
According to Lebovitz? It is journalism now to print the unconfirmed, hysterical theories of a recently fired employee as fact? Not a statement from New Balance, or one from Poliquin. Nope, just this guy’s rantings.
Then you move on to the real absurdities.
Lebovitz, who had been working at the factory for a month and a half, said he is “pretty much apolitical”
Pretty much apolitical? Once again, Collins unskeptically publishes the self-description of Lebovitz, and doesn’t even bother to verify (or even rebut) his claim by, you know, reporting. It wouldn’t have been hard to quickly throw some cold water on the idea that this person was “apolitical” just from the quote from him that appeared in the following paragraph. “The definition of fascism is the merger of corporate and state,” he said to Poliquin as he refused to shake his hand.
(For anyone curious, the actual definition of fascism is, “
Sound like an “apolitical” person to you? Of course not, because he isn’t. A quick look at his Facebook page — which Collins either didn’t bother to do, or ignored — shows pretty clearly that this person is, in fact, quite political. But sure, it is entirely appropriate to paint a sympathetic picture of an aggrieved, apolitical worker who got screwed by Poliquin, right?
A pretty telling part of the “report” occurred right after:
A nearby reporter who witnessed the scene said that Lebovitz said no as the congressman extended his hand.
Poliquin smiled in response and replied, “Okay then.”
Anyone who knows Bruce knows that he gets interactions like this all the time — as all members of Congress do — and could care less. “Okay then” is basically how he reacts to anyone who is needlessly rude or disrespectful to him.
More importantly, though, if any member of Congress, let alone someone in a very contested re-election battle, was stupid enough to get vindictive about this kind of encounter, it would be political suicide. It isn’t worth “going after” somebody like that, particularly because encounters like that happen every day on the campaign trail. Poliquin is even less likely to do something like that, as he is nice to a fault.
In any event, the rest of the piece, predictably, was speculative garbage.
He said he’s sure that his departure from the plant “was retaliation because I snubbed a politician.”
Really? And the proof of that, after both the staffing agency and New Balance failed to confirm that was where? We are just printing this guy’s account and letting him smear with no accountability?
“I’m pretty much convinced that was my kiss of death,” said Lebovitz, a former casino dealer who moved to Maine from Connecticut two years ago.
Oh, he’s from Connecticut. Wait, didn’t Collins come from Connecticut? Hmm… let’s move on.
Lebovitz said he can’t prove New Balance let him go because of his comment to Poliquin, “but we all know” it’s the reason. He said he doesn’t “have an ax to grind,” but he’s unhappy to lose his position.
Lebovitz said he phoned Poliquin’s district office late Thursday to complain. He said he also left a message for the congressman: “Thank you for costing me my job.”
So in a nutshell, this article by Collins amounts to little more than a griping hit job blog post by a pissed off left-wing agitator who was a temporary worker who was already taking vacation and proved uninterested in his work, and was then fired. Fired after being a prick to a member of Congress who has spent the better part of two years doing everything humanly possible to advocate for this guy’s temporary employer in the halls of government. And Collins was only too happy to oblige in reprinting it.
Folks, media bias is real, it is insidious, and it is literally poisoning this country from the inside out. It is rare that you get such an obvious example, but I suspect it will not be the last time we see it with this particular reporter.