Our View: Ethical news violations in Maine newsroom

DKS Editors

Cindy Michaels and Tony Consiglio, two news anchors in Bangor, Me., resigned unexpectedly on air Nov. 20.

The exact reasons behind the resignations remain a bit hazy, but Michaels, also news director for WVII and WFVX, has given a cryptic hint: The stations’ general manager, Mike Palmer, was filtering and even controlling the flow of news.

“The general manager’s philosophical beliefs played a role in what he wanted us to cover or not cover,” Michaels said.

In addition, she said, “there was a disrespect toward some staff members and a constant hand in the entire newsroom operations to the point I was not allowed to make decisions as news director.”

Perhaps most chilling, in a 2006 email obtained by the New York Times, Palmer told his staff they would no longer report stories on climate change — that is, unless “Bar Harbor is underwater,” he wrote, “then we can do global warning stories. Until then, no more.”

Palmer has refuted Michaels’ claims, saying none of them have been substantiated.

But that obtained email, which flippantly dismisses global warming, and the on-air resignations of two journalists are reason enough to be concerned about WVII and WFVX in Maine.

Although Michaels’ assertions are not proven, Bangor is still a sobering reminder of just how delicate newsroom ethics have become.

The Daily Kent Stater values fair and accurate reporting. We always strive for balanced news judgment when budgeting our newspaper, and the possibility, alone, that a general manager could influence coverage to perpetuate a personal agenda is stomach-churning. Even in a new age of social media and Internet reporting, news agencies still bear a responsibility to equity and honesty.

We hope the situation in Bangor is exaggerated or untrue, but if it isn’t, we applaud Consiglio and Michaels for their actions. But are they enough?

When The New York Times asked why she wouldn’t detail specific instances of her general manager’s ethical violations, Michaels said, “Sometimes it’s best to walk away from a fight rather than give each other black eyes.”

When it comes to reporting the news, no, it’s not.