Maine suffers from a lot of different things. Lack of oil to heat our homes. Lack of industry. Lack of employment. Lack of a wide offering of education opportunities. Lack of a solid plan for the future. You know, those sort of things that we don’t always think about. But they’re always there, and it’s a constant problem. Maine also suffers from another problem. The lack of balanced, honest reporting of just the facts. There are basically five major daily newspapers in this state. I’ll call them the A league. These papers are:
- Portland Press Herald
- Lewiston Daily Sun
- Kennebec Journal
- Waterville Sentinel
- Bangor Daily News
There are perhaps a couple dozen B leaguers, and maybe twice as many C leaguers, and scores of bloggers and website writers. But as in Baseball and Football, everybody looks to the Major League for guidance. We hang on every news story and soak in all the juicy gossip and faithfully defend them as being champions of truth. But that was yesterday. Back in the day when truth was truth, no matter what your personal opinion was. You could stand by your opinion, but if you were wrong, you were wrong. The facts were always the facts.
Not so today my friends. Today, newspapers count more on advertising revenue than they count on you and I spending seventy five cents a day on a paper. Or whatever yours costs. Big corporations are the guiding light, and most of the time, you can depend on your daily choice to be full of news that brings in the advertising dollar, and one more important item. That item is opinion. Opinion is a growing commodity in the publishing trade today. Newspaper editors push their opinion onto the readers, even if their opinion isn’t based on facts.
The issue is surrounding Plum Creek and their proposal to develop the Moosehead area into a playground for the rich from away. As I have been keeping an extra close watch on the proceedings I have noticed a trend in journalism that greatly disturbs me. That trend is to more and more tell stories to steer readers to a certain conclusion, regardless of the facts behind the story. Now, mind you, I don’t necessarily disagree with that type of writing. We bloggers write with that intent in mind every day. If you read this blog, you’ll get a conservative slant. It’s a given. It’s how it works. But when you read a general daily newspaper, one should expect to receive a story with unbiased facts presented, and nothing more. That way you can make up your own mind, and decide what you want to believe is the truth.
Here’s where Plum Creek Timber, and the Blethen connection come into play. You see, Blethen Maine owns three major dailies in the State of Maine. Everyone an A leaguer. Those would be the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, and Waterville Sentinel. It’s interesting to note that those three papers have articles written by just a few main reporters. And those writers put the same slant on the same stories, every time they write an article about them. When it comes to the Plum Creek proposal, the general facts as given relate to how this will be good for the people of Greenville and the state of Maine.
The articles are always pro Plum Creek. But why is that a connection you ask? Plum Creek is news, and newspapers print news. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? Here’s where the ethical debate gets a little muddy. The Blethen Maine Newspapers is owned by another news company called Seattle Times, also a Blethen family paper. That’s Seattle Washington. So these three newspapers paychecks get signed by a Seattle Wash. company. Like every good employee, these people are going to do what the boss wants. Plum Creek Timber is also based out of Seattle Washington. Seems like a busy town for corporate offices. Maybe Baldacci should send a delegation t find out why.
Like every good corporation, it’s run by a board of directors, and employees take their directions from the board members decisions. Let’s take one board member in particular as an example. Jump on your broomstick and head to Seattle for the next board meeting of the Seattle Times. Your host will introduce you to the board members. One in particular comes to mind. A gentleman by the name of Rick Holley. Sound familiar? It should, if you’ve been following the Plum Creek saga. Rick Holley is also the CEO of Plum Creek Timber.
Now that alone should not be a cause of concern. Just because he serves on the board of several of our local publications, does that mean that is the reason they are not reporting all of the facts? Maybe, maybe not. But is not, then why are we not seeing all of the negative aspects of this proposal. The Lewiston Sun and Bangor Daily news seems to have no problem with reporting some bad things about Plum Creek.
Case in point is today’s (01-20-2008) article about yesterday’s final meeting for public comment in Greenville on the Plum Creek plan. All three of the Blethen papers played down the opposition to the plan, and emphasized the perceived value of the plan. Slightly irked by the comments made by the author, I entered a reply on the story in the comments option. Here is my reply to the story;
dl of Brunswick, ME
Jan 20, 2008 9:23 AM
What everyone seems to missing here is the truth behind the concept plan as proposed by Plum Creek Timber. The plan is for their own financial gain. Period. There are no benefits in the long term. The people of Greenville might find it good going, provided the out of state contractors Plum Creek hires to do the work hires local labor. They haven’t to any great extent as yet in any other development. Employment opportunities?
The people of Greenville can look forward to a choice of 1.houskeeping,2.yardwork,3.retail,or 4.foodservice.None of these positions will be full time, none will be high wage. Not one of Plum Creek’s development schemes have resulted in meaningful local opportunities, jobs that your kids can look forward to as they grow up.
What the people of Greenville can look forward to is rich people from away demanding increased fire and police services, new sewer and water, better roads, and other taxpayer supported amenities.
They can also look forward to higher property taxes, increased valuation on property, meaning they will no longer be able to afford to live in Greenville, land posted against trespassing, eliminating access to all this ‘free’ conservation land, and a community changed by morays and values that come from someplace else. All so that they can make a few quick bucks during the construction boom.
Look at all the resort communities in Maine and NH. During the season, it’s crowded with people who could care less about the locals, and during the off season, ghost towns with locals struggling to pay the bills. Unmet tax burdens and low wage seasonal work is not a good plan for the future.
But of course, the pretty frame Plum Creek has placed around their picture makes us think that their paint by number Wal-Mart painting is a Van Gogh. Greenville needs a future, but they should be looking for one they can be proud of and their children can look forward to, and I don’t think running a register part time at a gift shop is much of a future.
Before the LURC makes a decision on this proposal Plum Creek has presented, I hope they are wise enough to look at all of the facts available on the issue. It’s true that the economic future of Greenville is at stake, but so isn’t the future of the rest of Maine. I’ve said it before, we are at what may be a pivotal point in the future of Maine. We are at a point where we can stop being pushed around by people from away, and start taking the reins of our future into our own hands. In my opinion, this proposed concept plan bodes ill for Maine.