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OMG, WGME: They actually ran it!

by Jeremy Hooper

Yesterday we showed you a clip from a Tuesday morning meeting, in which a WGME producer/news director type suggested that his news outlet should look into an 2008 anti-harassment, pro-acceptance document, with the newsman seeming to suggest (amidst unfortunate, anti-AP stylebook "alternative lifestyles" terminology) that this '08 report was some sort of smoking gun that proves the "yes on 1" campaign's education-based fibs. We then proceeded to tell you (and WGME staffers, via email) why this document in no way lends credence to the absurd idea that LD 1020 will lead to to same-sex marriage being taught in schools (e.g. marriage isn't even addressed in document, it predates the current debate, the doc speaks on the universal topic of LGBTQ kids and not the currently debated topic of marriage equality, etc.) We honestly thought the story would be dead in the water, as we felt that once the reporters looked into the matter, they'd see that there was no "there" there.

Well, we were wrong. Or, more accurately, WGME was wrong, as they have filed a completely one-sided, misleading report in which they essentially allow "yes on 1" head Marc Mutty the opportunity to take their flawed starting point and run with it. And what they put on TV screens is an unbelievably simplistic piece that leaves Mainers who can't or won't do more research on the subject (i.e. most Mainers) with a completely skewed picture of what the 2008 document actually says/is about, what it has to do with the current debate, and how it supposedly emboldens our opposition's stance:

(click to watch)
Screen Shot 2009-10-22 At 8.46.51 Am-1
Same-Sex Marriages and Education [WGME]
(H/t: Chino)

So annoying! This is one of those times where we as "non-mainstream news" are unfairly put behind mainstream journalism, even though we have explored these matters in ways that they have not and will not do. Don't get us wrong -- we aren't at all asking WGME to be activists. This isn't about objectivity. While we are unabashedly supportive of the "NO ON 1" side, we can easily step back and see how a document that looks into the unique situational struggles of LGBTQ students (one of the countless such examinations that are conducted across the nation on any given year, on various kinds of students) has nothing to do with a debate about one specific piece of civil, adult-centric legislation! The issue addressed in the '08 report is LGBTQ kids in general -- something that exists with and without marriage equality, and something that all people hopefully see a need to protect! Governments conduct all kinds of studies about all kinds of kids all the time! WGME's usage of our opposition's convenient talking point to suggest that this particular research is some sort of sneaky political effort to push marriage equality is offensive to gay people, Maine voters, educators who wish to protect vulnerable students, the commission who worked so hard on this report, and any journalist who wishes to elucidate complex matters rather than Mutty muddy the same!

This is retroactive "gotcha" journalism at its most unfortunate. It was born out of convenience, not merit.

**EARLIER: See the 10/20 morning meeting where this unfortunate baby was birthed : WGME invites us to be wall flies; we don't so much enjoy the buzz [G-A-Y]

**We're actually very curious as to what or who put the document in the producer/director/whoever's hands. While it's easily and readily available for download on Maine.gov, and while it's been looked over by many people on both sides of the "culture war" for over a year, the newsman in the previous video announces it as if it's some sort of discovery. We find this concerning, considering Marc Mutty just started mentioning the report in a 10/16 press release. Did WGME see this press release and accept our opposition's bait. Or did Mutty directly place it in their laps? Fishy.

**Here's the Youth Commission report again, for reference:

**UPDATE: The man in the video has been identified. It is news director Robb Atkinson.

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Your thoughts

It takes a decided lack of journalistic integrity to take a law that protects kids from anti-gay bullying, and effectively use that law in an attempt to ensure that kids of LGBT headed households are bullied / marginalized. And the cynic in me has to question their profit motives.. they are getting a flood of "no on 1" campaign money, plus the smaller trickle of "yes on 1" ad money. Politicians like wedge issues, because they can help to build coalitions. You've gotta wonder if the profit motivation may be clouding the objectivity of cash strapped local TV stations' News departments who (rightly so) see the wedge issues as cash cows.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Oct 22, 2009 9:33:41 AM

I'm surprisingly angry about this, considering I'm British and have never set foot in the US in my life. A local American news service report should not be irritating me this much.

I've half a mind to complain, but given that there's no way they can make money off me I'm not sure they'd listen.

Posted by: Baron Scarpia | Oct 22, 2009 10:17:09 AM

Thank goodness for the statement from No on 1 at the end, saying that the report is dead in the water and it is not going anywhere. Hopefully that will be the take-away point that stays in viewer's minds.


Posted by: Leslie | Oct 22, 2009 11:13:28 AM

So, JH, because Lagerquist's (he's the only one whose hair resembles any of the bio pics) pitch for the story was laden with code-words, I suspect that you believe that his interest in the story was less about the merits, and more about his personal ideology. I certainly would not be surprised if that turned out to be true. And, that they twisted it so that it had more of a "yes on 1" twinge to it, to me smacks of advocacy rather than reporting.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Oct 22, 2009 2:53:25 PM

Well Dick, I'm actually not going to ponder the motivation too deeply. He (Laserquist?) said what he said, and people can decide for themselves. At the very least, he does need to know that "alternative lifestyle" is not an accepted journalistic term.

But regardless of the motivation, the piece is poorly constructed. It seems like he found/was handed this readily available, never hidden document, and then constructed a story. I get how that can happen, as I get handed tantalizingly strong items all the time. But before I run with them, I examine them. And in this case, a simple assessment should of have told him that there was no "there" there. it should have also told them that the attempted usage of this document is nothing more than spin from the "yes" side.

But even if the piece *had* to go forward, for whatever reason, they should not have set it up the way they did. I look at all local news through the lens of someone who is listening while putting their kids to bed, with one eye on the TV and with one of their child. The piece 100% makes it sound like they have found some sort of smoking gun that disproves the "no" side. No surprise, since that's exactly how he (Laserquist?) presented it in the pitch meeting. But it's unfortunate, because it gives casual viewers permission to say, "oh, so the 'no' side must be lying -- the news team found some hidden evidence." Honestly, if I knew nothing about the situation and only casually listened to this report, that's exactly what i would think.

Posted by: G-A-Y | Oct 22, 2009 3:11:26 PM

This is a failure of No on 1's media operation. They should have been on top of this and worked on the reporter and editor to impact the end product.

Also, I note that it has been 3 days since Marc Mutty admitted to misleading the people of Maine about school curricula. This is a stunning admission, since their entire campaign has been based on the curriculum argument. Yet I haven't heard one peep from No on 1. They should have had an ad dedicated to this admission. Instead, total silence and chirping crickets.

I hate to say it, but this is Prop 8-style incompetence and it is in contrast to the competence that they have shown up until now.

Posted by: Dell | Oct 22, 2009 4:42:14 PM

Dell, we still haven't seen the "Obama says marriage = 1 man + 1 woman" ad from the liars. I would hope that "No on 1" is saving something in reserve for the last few days of the campaign, and for that "misrepresentation of support from Obama" ad that we know is coming. But, I agree, up until now I have been happy with the campaign, and I don't think that we have seen the last from them.

Posted by: Dick Mills | Oct 22, 2009 5:07:16 PM

I've liked what I've seen from the No on 1 campaign so far, but if that's the actual statement they gave in response to this manufactured "story" ... well, the sliver of voters the campaign needs to be persuading at this point are not going to be impressed by timid or bureaucratic explanations.

Somebody should've directed the question back to Mutty asking him to explain exactly what he finds so offensive about informing kids that they're expected to be respectful of ALL fellow students, regardless of their various family backgrounds? Or maybe this: Marc Mutty would like nothing better than to turn his campaign to ban marriage equality into a game of "Gotcha" but Maine voters won't be fooled into ignoring the real issue at stake with Question 1. Or maybe this: We invite the Yes on 1 campaign to join us in a real debate rather than resort to distraction and innuendo and year-old reports to drum up fake controversy.

I've watched the WABI TV5 debate and listened to the MPBN debate. I really like the folks who're debating for our side, and think that having several more debates already scheduled has got to be a plus for the No camp. My main concern is that our opponents probably know that they can afford to lose every single argument in these debates as long as they don't come off as too unlikable.

Posted by: LdChino | Oct 23, 2009 4:39:19 AM

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