Station demeans itself with negative comparisons to Maine’s newspapers.

Well, they’re back. The public pleaders from Maine Public Radio have been holding their radio audience hostage this week in another attempt to extract donations from listeners.

And I understand that. We sell advertising and subscriptions. They raise donations, get government money and sell sponsorships and underwriting opportunities to the same people who buy our advertising.

Hey. Everybody needs to make a living.

I object again, however, to their continued attempts to sell their service by running down other forms of news delivery.

During the last fundraising campaign, their argument went like this: Newspapers aren’t covering as much news as they used to, so you need Maine Public Radio now more than ever.

OK. There have been layoffs at daily newspapers in Maine. No denying that. But guess what? As soon as MPBN finished its fundraising campaign, it announced a $900,000 deficit, laid off eight employees and cut wages by between 5 and 20 percent, according to a Dec. 19 story in the Portland Press Herald.

What’s worse, MPBN said it would simply turn off broadcast towers in northern Maine, cutting service to tens of thousands of listeners. Probably just loggers up there; not many big donors, MPBN must have figured.

A legitimate budget cut? Maybe. Or perhaps just a tactic to get more money from state government? Well, it now looks like the latter. The governor’s office immediately began searching for money to funnel to MPBN to keep the towers operating.

A government bailout, I suppose.

Now, after a few months, the network is again raising money… and again selling itself against the state’s newspapers.

On Wednesday and Thursday mornings, the on-air sales pitch went like this: Public Broadcasting is great. When you turn on your radio in the morning, you get the world at your fingertips. No need to search around for a newspaper or visit a bunch of Web sites.

Let’s take that apart, shall we?

First, most daily newspaper readers have no need to “search around” for a newspaper. It’s delivered to their mailbox or doorstep.

The only people “searching around,” if MPBN had its way, would be listeners in northern Maine hearing only static on their radios where they used to hear a radio signal.

Second, the state’s major daily newspapers have several hundred reporters, editors and photographers searching their communities, large and small, for news, which then appears on their Web sites and in their newspapers.

Maine Public Broadcasting, as far as I can tell, has five or six news people to cover a state of more than a million people. Many small-town weeklies in this state have more news employees than that.

Third, it’s especially maddening to hear MPBN running down the state’s newspapers when it relies so heavily on them for its morning broadcast.

For instance, we had a reporter and photographer at the scene of the former Decoster egg farm Wednesday when it was raided by the Maine Department of Agriculture. Nobody from Public Broadcasting showed up.

Two of our editors, meanwhile, worked the phones and the Web, and tracked down the search warrant for the plant.

Within the hour, we had a story on our Web site. By morning we had 80 column inches of news about the raid and conditions at the plant in our newspaper, in addition to four photos. On our Web site, we had additional video and links to further information.

I’m not bragging; that’s what we do. We collect news. We have feet on the street.

We share that with the Associated Press, which boils it down to a couple of paragraphs and MPBN reads it the next morning on “Maine Things Considered.” Yep, they got the state covered – thanks to a newspaper.

That’s what they do: Take news collected by others and read snippets on the air to supplement a handful a staff-generated stories.

And that’s OK.

They have one mission. We have another – comprehensive coverage of our communities.

I urge people to listen to Public Radio. I also urge people to read a newspaper.

I only wish MPBN would do the same.

Rex Rhoades is the executive editor of the Sun Journal and can be reached at [email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.