Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Were Maine Daily's Free Ads to Chamber on Charter Vote a Conflict of Interest?

Portland, Maine at Christmas timeImage via WikipediaThe Sun Media Group-owned Maine weekly, The Forecaster (, earns kudos from, the nonprofit Art Science Research Laboratory media ethics Web site, for its reporting on the questionable conduct of The Portland Press Herald concerning the recent change in the city charter that enables voters directly, rather than City Councilors, to select the port city's Mayor.

Voters last month passed the City Charter amendment, which the Press Herald supported in two editorials. All well and good, but The Forecaster accuses the Press Herald of a conflict of interest and assails the daily for not disclosing that it gave $47,000 worth of free advertising to the Portland Regional Chamber of Commerce, a key backer of the amendment, leading up to the vote.

The Forecaster, whose Portland readership exceeds 19,500, claims the Chamber received one free ad daily, including a full-page ad, in Press Herald ads running from Oct 26 to the Nov. 2 election day. The Press Herald's donation of advertising purportedly was discovered by The Forecaster in the Elect Our Mayor/Yes on 1 post-election campaign finance report.

The Press Herald defended its coverage of the charter vote to The Forecaster, but has yet to respond to  Reportorial objectivity can be compromised when either the wall between the newsroom and editorial or the newsroom and advertising is replaced by a fence with an unlocked gate.

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