By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,235)
For the first time, the “Portland Press Herald” will not be endorsing political candidates in next month’s election said Greg Kesich, editorial page editor, for the daily newspaper. It’s an idea that Kesich has been grappling with for sometime now. When he made his decision is not clear, but he did announce it at an OLLI (formerly Senior College) course this morning on the “Art of Producing a Daily Newspaper.”
There have been many changes at the paper in the last year Kesich said. And, there are several reasons for this change in editorial policy; probably the most significant reason is politics. First though, he’s the only staff working on the editorial page these days. (A year ago, the paper was only paychecks away from going out of business.) Whereas in the past there has been an editorial board that interviewed candidates and made their selections based largely on their character. That luxury does not exist anymore. Kesich IS the editorial board - at least for now.
Perhaps the most compelling argument against endorsing candidates has arisen because S. Donald Sussman, hedge fund owner, is a majority stakeholder in the paper. And, of course, he’s married to US Rep. Chellie Pingree. “I cannot imagine not endorsing Pingree. But what kind of credibility would I have?” Kesich asked the full classroom of attentive seniors on the USM Portland campus. Besides, Cliff Scheechtman, Kesich’s boss and the executive editor, thinks political endorsements are a thing of the past. Out of date. No more.
Rather, Kesich will write a series of issue editorials on topics of importance to Mainers; although he refused to elaborate what those issues are. Then he will grade candidates on those issues. The series will run on Sundays in the “Maine Sunday Telegram” although he wouldn’t say when they will begin or how many columns there will be. “Readers tell us they want more information. Just don’t tell us how to vote,” he said.
In his two-hour question and answer visit at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), Kesich covered many topics . He credited the union with saving the paper. The paper would not have survived without it. He also said that the new CEO, a woman from the “Boston Globe” was hired largely because of her talent in the digital field. “I’m glad she’s been hired. We’ve needed a boss to make decisions and be accountable for them,” he said relieved. Of Donald Sussman, Kesich said: “He runs it as a public service, not a ‘cash cow’. He’s civic minded and is not trying to make money from it.”
“Sure I get edited,” he said in response to a question from the class. “I get over edited by bitter, angry, resentful, nasty copy editors,” Kesich said laughing. “To write a column, the subject has to be something I really care about. I need to have a passion for the subject. From a bird’s eye perch, “we have a good story here,” he said.
Editor’s note: The above photographs were supposed to go with the next story about the ‘Sebago to the Sea Trail’ celebration. Please enjoy them any way!