Sunday Editorial on Editorial’s – The Portland Press Herald’s sad decline

Regular readers know that I am not a fan of the Portland Press Herald. My issues with the daily really boil down to personal choice. There is only so much time in the day. I can’t read everything, local or otherwise. I’m not going to waste my time reading something of questionable quality. I’m not going out of my way to attack the PPH. I can get Maine news from any number of sources on the web, including aggregated sources from Google News. When I can pick and choose the best of the best, why waste time with the least of the rest? My father in-law has said all he needs to read are the headlines of the Press Herald and he’s already got all he needs.

The Portland Press Herald has been in a steady decline since last summer. The paper has been on sale since March of 2008. Things headed even further south that June. Four bureaus were closed and 36 employees let go. A group recently approached owners of the Blethen Maine Newspapers, who owns the PPH, Kennebec Journal, Sentinel, and Sunday Telegram, in a effort to close a deal. It should be known that Blethen is now owned by a Seattle news corp.

from Recovering Journalist

Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram: Put up for sale by the Blethen family last March; several allegedly close calls, but still no sale. Most recent development: The signing a couple weeks ago of a letter of intent for a sale, apparently to a group including previous attempted buyer Richard Connor, a Pennsylvania publisher. This would be Connor’s third swing at the papers, and it’s still not clear he can find financing, especially in this economy.

In all of this confusing mess it’s no surprise that the PHH’s quality has suffered. PPH writers are now missing stories from their own back yard. One opinion writer this morning calls the Press Herald on its lackadaisical journalism.

from PPH

I find it interesting to note that in the past week, The New York Times has published two long, detailed stories about life in Maine.

One was about the University of Maine at Presque Isle baseball team; the other about the lack of dentists in rural areas. Both were well-written and insightful. Both got plenty of space with pictures. [The Portland Press Herald] missed these. You constantly ignore other stories about life in our state, apparently satisfied with trying to puff life into your meager Web site, or with print content from wire services.

As one with some experience in the newspaper field, it would appear to me that you are comfortable with riding out your current ownership in the expectation that life will get better with a new owner.

That’s lazy journalism and an attitude not likely to improve with a change on the masthead. You are either in the business of journalism– eager to seek out stories, intent on reporting about life in our region – or you are not. A decent paper does not rely on PR releases or wire services.

You even relied on a freelancer to report on Yo-Yo Ma’s visit to Portland – truly a missed opportunity.

It’s no wonder you have a tough time economically: you have become irrelevant to Maine when your readers can find better stories in papers from away. Hopefully, luck is on your side. You’ll need it. You aren’t going to make it on craft.

With venerable papers like the Rocky Mountain Times, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and San Francisco Chronicle either closed or close to closing the Press Herald can’t afford to be second rate. They shouldn’t be filling their paper with stories written by people from away or letting Maine stories go by the wayside. That is why we want local papers. I can get my national and world news at a click. I can get my local news at a click too, but a local writer should be adding that touch of knowing the people and environment they are writing about. That special something really shines through in writing and grabs the attention of readers.

Make me want to read what you write! Otherwise you deserve to fail.

I should point out that somehow the PPH and Maine Sunday Telegram won best paper of the year from New England Newspaper Association in their circulation range.


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