Saturday, November 21, 2009

Portland Daily Sun

A correction about that Marshall-Skolnik mayoral column
Sometimes, you just apologize and quote your victims

By Curtis Robinson

Well, there are mistakes and there are mistakes.
I made a dandy one yesterday by inverting two of the city councilors in my continuing rant about the secrecy around the Portland mayor's selection.
Explaining why would involve a mystery involving first drafts and how Google Docs works with various content management systems — it was an early draft, but that's really no excuse.
Since David Marshall was one of my victims, let's quote from his blog on the issue:
"Portland Daily Sun Editor Curtis Robinson issued an opinion piece in the Portland Daily Sun and made a huge mistake. Mr. Robinson confused Councilor Dan Skolnik and I when he wrote:
"'We sure did hear some vague reference to 'temperament' and concerns about the council becoming divisive. Let's get out our Captain Obvious decoder rings and see what that really means. Hmmmmm. Wasn't it that rascal David Marshall (the only real declared candidate for mayor this time around, and a Green) who dared air negative comments about key city staffers? Right ... they had those private City Hall meetings to address the concerns. And didn't he make certain Powers That Be cringe by trying to alter a key police-action citizen review committee? Could that be the code?'"
"It was Councilor Dan Skolnik, a Democrat on the City Council and a key supporter in the selection of Nick Mavodones as next year's mayor, who was publicly critical about the City Manager's job performance. It was Councilor Skolnik who had private meetings with Mayor Duson and City staffers. It was Councilor Skolnik who is trying to alter the Police Citizen Review Subcommittee."
Marshall also notes that "the worst part of this egregious mistake is that Mr. Robinson's own paper has been reporting on the events."
He's, of course, right on all counts, and the several fine links he provides to our coverage illustrates that we are indeed reporting on the events. I'll note that our news reporter, Casey Conley, did not review my column and doubtless would have saved me some humility inducing word-eating.
(Actually, it dawns on me that Councilor Marshall might get some debate on the "worst of all" designation, but let's leave that to others.)
So my apologies to him and, of course, also to Dan Skolnik, who also BTW took issue with my reference to him, albeit by another name, as "rocking the boat" on the Police Subcommittee — he feels that marginalizes his opinions.
Frankly, I thought it was a compliment. Such is the danger of opinion. And my apologies also to our many readers, especially those who found the mistake a bit more amusing than those involved.
This is the part where we news types typically try to squirm off the hook by saying it was an unintentional mistake, that we're running corrections on page one and in the column and that sort of thing.
But it might be more interesting to review some of the other, much more nuanced, "suggestions" I've received of late.
About that Peaks Island vote to leave Portland: At least, that's what we might call it. But some islanders have suggested that some people who voted "yes" on that issue were really just wanting to (a) advance the process or (b) create possible leverage with the city. The point is that they might have advanced the issue without actually wanting to leave Portland. It's also been noted that when reporters use words like "some," we could mean anywhere from two people (it is plural) to 100 million.
It's also been pointed out that the Daily Kos blogger of note is "Bill In Portland, Maine," and not "Bill FROM Portland, Maine."
The difference of course is monumental in a place where being from Away is ... well, what it is. Bill clarifies that he does live here but does not claim to be "from" here, since he grew up in Ohio and such. He also notes that he has not been critical in print of the Obama administration's support of the recent Maine Gay Marriage vote -- we left that impression in noting the Daily Kos coverage earlier.
There's more, and it's risky to include what are matters of detail with a more serious screw-up.
But my intent is this — we have published more than 200 editions of this paper so far, and we've made mistakes of various sizes.
We do care about the details of our stories — even if we won't always agree with your specific phrasing. So please don't hesitate to email us your suggestions or call me directly at 207-699-5802.
And, yeah, it does still sucks that the mayor is chosen in secret.

(Curtis Robinson is editor of The Portland Daily Sun. Contact him at

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