The Phoenix Network:
 
 
About  |  Advertise
Adult  |  Moonsigns  |  Blogs  |  In Pictures
 

Build on each other

Press releases
By JEFF INGLIS  |  April 6, 2011

Why is that when one Maine news outlet breaks a big story, the others spend more energy trying to copy it, rather than extend it? Take the most recent example, the labor mural dispute.

Governor Paul LePage's remarks and actions about the historical mural at the Maine Department of Labor office in Augusta are indeed newsworthy.

But after more than two weeks of non-stop coverage by Maine reporters, serious — and obvious — questions remain. We still don't know where the murals are, whether any actual business leaders disliked them, whether their removal was legal (a question now before a federal court), why they were removed so abruptly, nor why the governor later said he wished his removal order hadn't been followed so quickly.

These unanswered questions highlight a strange phenomenon of Maine journalism, which I have observed throughout the course of many years as a reporter and editor here.

In a competitive media environment, publications don't worry about getting the scoop a competitor had yesterday — they care about getting the news that hasn't been told yet. If someone gets a big break, other reporters swarm to the topic, seeking to build on that original story. Only rarely does this involve on-the-ground cooperation; mostly, reporters believe in the integrity of the competition, and bring their own resources to bear, driving deeper into the heart of an issue.

Maine has what might be called a passive-cooperative media environment, where media outlets don't acknowledge each other — for good or ill. Perhaps that's to avoid making the others look bad. But in the process, they make themselves weaker, and hurt the public interest.

As a contrary example, look at the New York Times-Washington Post relationship: They regularly scoop each other on topics both papers cover, such as national security. If the Times breaks a story, the Post will develop additional sources and insights to move the story forward, and will often make its basis explicit, saying in an early paragraph, "the New York Times reported X." By expanding on the information someone else has already reported, the Post can get a better, deeper, more insightful story. The Times will respond by building on the Post's reporting. Readers — whether they read one paper, the other, or both — learn lots more, very quickly.

That's not the case in Maine. Here, editors act as if their readers don't look at any other sources of news. So if the Press Herald, the Sun Journal, or the Bangor Daily News gets something good today, you can bet that tomorrow's editions of the other papers will have that story. But don't expect anything else. We see this in the coverage of the mural mess. Despite the massive reporting effort by the State House press corps (and the Press Herald was not the only paper to assign extra reporters to cover different angles), none of Maine's daily papers got anything substantially different from what any other paper had.

The basics still remain unknown. The problem is easily fixed, if only Maine media outlets would acknowledge that somebody has already covered some turf, and decide to move the entire story forward. Instead, busy covering what was already known, none of them bothered to figure out what the next question was, nor determine its answer.

1  |  2  |   next >
  Topics: The Editorial Page , Politics, Media, Maine,  More more >
| More


ARTICLES BY JEFF INGLIS
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   PORTLAND VS. HER PEOPLE  |  March 19, 2014
    This city, which all agree is lucky to have so many options, has leaders who do not behave as if they have any choice at all. To the frustration of the citzenry, the City Council and the Planning Board often run off with the first partner who asks for a dance.
  •   LEARNING FROM FAIRPOINT'S DISASTERS  |  March 06, 2014
    Two bills before the Maine legislature seek to pry lessons from the hard time FairPoint has had taking over the former Verizon landline operations in Maine since 2009.
  •   BEYOND POLITICS  |  March 06, 2014
    Today’s US media environment might well seem extremely gay-friendly.
  •   THE ONLINE CHEF  |  February 27, 2014
    It turns out that home-cooked scallops are crazy-easy, super-delicious, and far cheaper than if you get them when you’re dining out.
  •   RISE OF THE E-CURRENCIES  |  February 12, 2014
    Plus: Is Rhode Island ready for Bitcoin? Two perspectives

 See all articles by: JEFF INGLIS



  |  Sign In  |  Register
 
thePhoenix.com:
Phoenix Media/Communications Group:
TODAY'S FEATURED ADVERTISERS
Copyright © 2014 The Phoenix Media/Communications Group