Media Malpractice


Jon Reisman

NBC affiliate WLBZ, Channel 2 out of Bangor, has served Eastern and Central Maine since 1952. Back in the 80’s when a rooftop antenna brought snowy reception from both Bangor and the channel 57 Calais repeater, I remember the work of editorial director Fred Nutter, who frequently communicated the station’s position on a wide variety of topics. He concluded his video editorials with his signature line, “That’s our opinion, we welcome yours.” Times have changed. Honestly labeled editorials are infrequent, and editorial opinion is disguised as news judgement and deliberate omission. Viewer opinions, unless they echo the station, are not welcome.

WLBZ and their sister station in Portland broadcast more than 5 hours of Maine coverage (Newscenter Maine) Monday-Friday. In recent years, they have put on a series of short ads touting their journalistic integrity and objectivity, led by veteran Maine journalist Don Carrigan. They also feature an allegedly non-partisan fact checking service, “Verify”. Meteorologist Keith Carson has promoted “Science!” as on on-air climate alarmist and advocate. The station is not exactly a mouthpiece for the Democratic Party like the Maine Monitor or MSNBC, but it is close.

Last week reporter Zach Britton authored a particularly deceptive editorial joining President Biden, Jen Psaki, Saturday Night Live and the Democrats (but I repeat myself) in criticizing the so called Florida “Don’t say gay” bill.

Here is Britton’s opening (my bold):

“By now, you’ve probably heard about the “Don’t say gay” bill that seeks to ban classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity with young students in Florida.
Despite an uproar from President Joe Biden, activists, and everyday students walking out of schools in opposition, it’s about to become a law.
Let me start by saying this is not something we usually do. In the past decade, NEWS CENTER Maine has only shared three editorials. As journalists, it is not our job to share our opinions. But it is my job to share the facts.”

 "Young" is a purposely-biased piece of misdirection. The actual language in the bill is:

"Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards."

Britton deliberately mischaracterized the facts; the bill bans instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity for 5-8 year olds, not all “young” (under 18?) people.

Britton then charges:
This law will do nothing more than strengthen our divisions and threaten the well-being of LGBTQ+ kids in Florida and across the country.
It will hurt kids like me, who may not have known what gay was as a third-grader in a small town but knew what it meant to be "different" and somehow "bad."
This law won’t just make it illegal for kids, gay or straight, to learn about what a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or trans person is. It ultimately creates an environment where they learn it’s wrong.
But most importantly, it forces kids to live in a world where they cannot be themselves….
And while you might not think this Florida law applies here, it does. It sends a message to every young person, from York to Caribou, who already feels like they do not fit the mold, that it’s not OK to live their truth.”

On the WLBZ web site, there is a link to a story on the bill from their sister NBC affiliate in Tampa (in fact it is embedded in the editorial!). Here is the real reason Democrats, teachers unions and LGBTQ advocates have their knickers in a knot over this bill:

“The bill prohibits schools, “from discouraging or prohibiting parental notification and involvement in critical decisions affecting a student's mental, emotional, or physical well-being.”
….According to legislative analysis of the bill, "multiple school districts in Florida maintain policies that exclude parents from discussions and decisions on sensitive topics relating to students." It also gives parents the right to pursue legal options if they believe a school’s procedures are infringing on their “fundamental right…to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children.

I have been watching Newscenter Maine for many years. I am not a fan of cancel culture. I could handle the climate alarmism, biased fact checking and parroting of Democratic talking points about “Following the Science.” However, deliberately misleading their audience while carrying water for the teachers unions and LGBTQ/gender identity advocates means I am moving on.

Jon Reisman is an associate professor of economics and public policy at the University of Maine at Machias. His views are his own. Mr. Reisman welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at [email protected].

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