With the end of 2012 fast approaching, we decided to take a look back at the stories that Maine’s media covered poorly, or just flat out ignored.

Would 2012 have ended any differently if the Maine media had done a better job covering these stories? Only the people of Maine can answer that question.

#20 – Portland Press Herald Botches Education & Campaign Finance Story

Number twenty on our list is how the Portland Press Herald botched an attempted attack on Governor LePage story on education and campaign finance. The story, which was at it’s core an attempt to weave a dark, conspiratorial tapestry around Maine’s virtual school policy soon devolved into an expose on the workings of Maine’s media.

Soon after publication, it was revealed that the wife of the investigative journalist who authored the report sat on the board of a charter school applicant competing with the applicants he attacked in the piece, as well as working for the political organization of failed 2010 gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler.

Adding to the appearance of severe conflicts of interest was the sloppy attempt by the investigative journalist to tie LePage to campaign contributions made to a PAC the LePage campaign had no control or knowledge of, and irresponsible claims of state “education policy” that did not yet even exist.

Read original piece

Read MPBP MAP Report

Read Commissioner Bowen’s Op-Ed Response

#19 – US Senate Candidate Cynthia Dill Uses Aurora Massacre To Raise Cash

In the wake of the Aurora theatre massacre in which 12 people were killed and 70 wounded, Maine’s Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Cynthia Dill sent an email blast using the tragedy to raise money for her underperforming campaign.

While U.S. News & World Report picked up on the story, Maine’s media largely ignored it, in stark contrast to the way the Maine media generally covers less liberal politicians who are seen to say or do things that could be viewed as insensitive.

Read MPBP MAP Report

#18 – Welfare Reform Opponents Use Blatantly False Scare Tactics On Elderly, Media Plays Along

In attempting to obstruct structural reforms to Maine’s generous welfare programs, opponents of the Governor’s budget proposal crafted a false narrative that the proposal would eliminate PNMI funding and force Maine’s elderly residents onto the streets.

The truth was, as the Governor’s office and DHHS communicated repeatedly, that the existing PNMI funding structure needed to be reformed to comply with federal guidelines.

Despite being clearly informed and shown how the PNMI funding structure would be fixed, the press continued with the opposition narrative for many weeks, printing and covering the opposition talking points week after week without challenging their accuracy, thus convincing a large portion of their audience that the false narrative had merit.

#17 – Fmr Asst Democrat Leader Terry Hayes Speaks Out About Union Influence

The public would like to believe that when the former member of leadership of a political party speaks out against the unhealthy influence of any special interest group on their own political party, the media would cover it.

That was not the case when former House Assistant Minority Leader Terry Hayes of Buckfield spoke out about the influence of unions on the Maine Democratic party.

Despite the fact that numerous blunt and scathing quotes from Hayes were published by a guest columnist in Maine newspapers, to our knowledge not a single one of these outlets actually reported on the back story or dug into how much influence the unions actually bought with their massive financial support of Maine Democrats in the 2012 elections.

Read Sun Journal Op-Ed

Read Kennebec Journal Op-Ed

Read Maine Wire Column

#16 – “Renewable” Energy Talking Points Go Mostly Unchallenged In Maine Media

Number 16 on our list is actually a long-running problem. Throughout 2012 some Maine media outlets continued with the practice of printing the talking points of certain “renewable energy” interests unchallenged. MPBP exposed one of those such instances with this report, but the problem continues.

When covering certain government subsidized energy producers, the Maine media should ask for proof of such things as job creation claims, actual output, emerging technology, and the comparable subsidies received by various energy sectors. Not doing so is simply a failure of the Maine media.

Read MPBP MAP Report For Example

#15 – The Circulation Decline Of Maine’s Daily Newspapers

Hat tip to Al Diamon and his Media Mutt blog for this one.

Maine’s major daily newspapers faced dramatic declines in circulation once again in 2012, but you wouldn’t know it if you rely solely on Maine’s traditional media to inform you.

According to a Nov. 6 report by Diamon at Media Mutt the Portland Press Herald saw circulation decline about 11% to 46,371 in 2012, down from over 52k copies in 2011.

The Bangor Daily News also faced a significant, but smaller, decline. The Bangor Daily News reported circulation down about 7%, settling in with a circulation of 44,288 for weekday editions.

Also of note, the other Maine Today Media papers which joined the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram as part of the Sussman media empire in early 2012 also saw declines. The Kennebec Journal was down 9 percent and the Waterville Morning Sentinely reported circulation down 8 percent.

Without persistent media watch dogs like Diamon, the average Mainer might never have seen this story.

Read Al Diamon’s Media Mutt Piece

#14 – Obama Administration Sides With LePage On BPA

Looking back at 2011, what observer of Maine politics could forget the emotionally charged debate about BPA?

While Governor LePage and a handful of brave souls in the Maine Legislature insisted that they needed to see solid science to demonstrate the dangers of BPA before exposing the Maine public to what might potentially be an even worse replacement chemical after a ban of BPA, certain groups used their insistence on sound science to launch a noisy, emotion driven protest campaign which was covered from every angle by the Maine media.

Fast forward to March 2012, when the Obama administration announces that it will not ban BPA, citing the questionable nature of the studies used by these interest groups, and clearly demonstrating that it has found no evidence to back up the emotion driven claims of protest groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, which is also influential in Maine.

As might be expected, the Maine media’s response to the Obama administration saying essentially the same thing as the LePage administration was…drum roll pleasesilence.

Yes, in one of the most stunning about-face maneuvers in the history of the Maine media, President Obama got a free pass on BPA, while Governor LePage and a handful of state legislators got relentlessly attacked.

And to top it off, the Maine Democratic party and their allies attacked Republican incumbents who dared to side with President Obama on BPA, essentially telling voters they wanted to “poison” babies.

Of course, the Maine media didn’t bother to ask the Maine Democratic party if that meant President Obama wanted to “poison” babies as well.

#13 – Eliot Cutler’s Strange, Questionable Resignation From Americans Elect

Bizarre, strange, questionable and suspect are all words that could describe the fact that Eliot Cutler’s resignation from the board of Americans Elect was done in such a manner that an inquisitive press would have had scores of legitimate questions to ask.

One of those questions probably would have been: How could Cutler have possibly avoided violating laws prohibiting coordinated campaign expenditures while serving as Angus King’s U.S. Senate Campaign Chair and also serving on the Board of Americans Elect, an astro-turf, or rather, “grassroots” organization that was acting as a PAC to conduct independent expenditures to benefit King’s candidacy for Senate?

Another question might have been: Exactly when did Cutler resign his position on the Americans Elect board? Reports vary, with Americans Elect providing documentation that it may have been June 23, June 26 or October 5, 2012?

The answer to that question will reflect upon Cutler going forward, because each date of resignation has different implications for the legality of his actions with Americans Election and the King campaign.

Had the Maine media decided to cover this story in depth, the people of Maine might have some answers, but they don’t, because the story was largely overlooked while the Maine media covered the horse-race aspects of the U.S. Senate race.

Read AE Transparency Blog On This Topic

#12 – Maine’s Unemployment/Participation Rate Stronger Than National Economy

Maine’s unemployment rate consistently stayed below the national average in 2012, and when accounting for the fact that Maine has a higher participation rate than the national average, Maine’s unemployment rate looks more like 5.4% according to the Department of Labor.

While the Maine media covered Maine’s monthly unemployment rate, it seldom received any in-depth explanation or solid context. Also, details such as Maine’s higher participation rate were rare to non-existent in the Maine media throughout 2012.

#11 – State Rep. John Martin Gave $8,500 Taxpayer “Clean Elections” Dollars To His Own Business

The Maine Clean Elections System, a program that forces taxpayers to pay for lawn signs, bumper stickers and the political campaigns of Maine politicians is regularly cast in the most favorable of light by the Maine media. But in 2012, Maine’s “Clean Elections” system faced a potential blemish, along with Representative John Martin of Eagle Lake, when MPBP exposed that Martin had given $8,500 “clean elections” dollars to a now-bankrupt convenience store he co-owns.

As always, the Maine media was quick to inform the public on the taxpayer funded shenanigans of a long-time liberal politician, and completely ignored the story.

The Maine media was undeniably irresponsible and biased in not covering this story.

Read MPBP Report

Read Part 2 of the 20 Least & Worst Covered Maine Political Stories Of 2012