mediadog: Burying the Journalistic Hatchet in Otten
Lead writer McCue's lefty political credentials are not mentioned. Read More...
AMG’s Media Watch
Burying the journalistic hatchet in Les Otten
Thu, 03/11/2010 - 10:55pm
The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting is a new investigative journalism operation that claims it will produce in-depth reporting of a type not found in any of the state's newspapers.
The idea, as demonstrated in a series on gubernatorial political hopefuls, apparently is to zero in on a single issue and see what it reveals about the candidate's character.
The Center's premier effort in the series, a dissection of Les Otten's candidacy for the GOP nomination, holds out little hope that the Center's reporting is going to be anywhere near fair and balanced.
What it offers readers can best be described as more of the same: The usual liberal line ladled out in the a sneaky way by some of the usual suspects. And slurped up by the usual cheering section -- plus a couple of critics who should know better.
The article, by Marian McCue, former editor of the weekly Forecaster, and John Christie, a former newspaper executive and the Center's founder, reveals little new about Otten. His effort to build a ski empire, a mixture of success and failure in a tough business, has already been made available in comprehensive detail to most readers. The trials and tribulations of Otten and his American Ski Company are well-known to skiers all over the world.
But, in the Center's story, facts and supposition are deftly interwoven in an attempt to depict Otten as a villain. It is only in the latter part of the article that Otten's defenders are allowed to present another picture of the man. But by that time, it's safe to predict, lots of readers will have judged the story to be just another journalistic hatchet job and will have turned the page.
This is certain to be the case among many familiar with the career of McCue, the lead writer in the piece. Although she is identified by her former job, her lefty political credentials are not mentioned. Yet they are well-known in political circles and germane to any assessment of her reporting.
They include her donations totaling $2,800 to Democratic candidates in the 2008 campaign and, more recently, her stint as a staffer for the Maine Civil Liberties Union, the state branch of the notoriously left-wing (to conservatives, anyway) ACLU.
McCue donated $1,000 to Ethan Strimling and another 1,000 to Micheal Brennan, both losing candidates in last year's Democratic Congressional primary and, later, $300 to the campaign of Chellie Pingree, the winner of the primary and the general election. She also sent $500 to Act Blue, a political action committee set up to raise funds for "progressive" Democratic candidates.
So McCue, now a free-lance writer, is more than just a garden-variety former editor. She would be described by many as a dedicated left-wing ideologue. Since the story was about a Republican and McCue is a bigtime (by Maine standards) financial supporter of Democrats, why was she assigned to do this article? Surely there were more objective journalists who could have done the job.
At the very least, why wasn't there more disclosure?
But wait, a "disclosure" item is actually tacked on to the version of the Otten story that appears on the Center's website. It reveals only that McCue has recently donated $100 to the "publicly-financed campaign of Libby Mitchell."
Mitchell, longtime member of the state's legislative hierarchy and a perennial office-seeker, is currently running for the Democratic nomination for governor although the "disclosure" does not mention any of that.
And, of course, it fails to mention any of McCue's 2008 donations. So what good is disclosure if it is not full disclosure?
Several Maine newspapers, daily and weekly, have associated themselves with the Center's operation. They include the Bangor Daily News (no surprise there) the Sun Journal in Lewiston and the normally sensible Ellsworth American (big surprise there).
They should watch who is assigned to do the stories on the other GOP candidates and the Democrats as well. It's unlikely that any of the latter will be examined by a conservative ideologue. But we'll have to wait and see.