Take Five

LePageMy wife, Governor Paul Lepage, Bill Nemitz, a charity auction and the in-patient psychiatric unit at Maine Medical Center.

How did these random things become connected last week, causing a bit of a stir on my Facebook page last night?

Let’s start at the top.

Last week, just days before the election, Governor Paul LePage joked that Portland Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz should be placed on a “suicide watch,” speculating that he was going to win his re-election bid and his nemesis might jump off the Penobscot Narrows Bridge as a result.

Boom! Instant controversy. Once again, the governor found himself in familiar territory with his foot in his mouth.

The governor’s critics (Democrats) went wild, talking about how insensitive the governor is to issues regarding mental illness.

Reportedly, some people who have lost loved ones to suicide were also  angry and upset about the remarks.

Other folks (Republicans) said the governor was joking and the comment was no big deal, pointing out that many in society make lighthearted jokes on similar topics.

Stop and think if you have ever said “I’m going crazy.” “That is a crazy idea.” “That guy is a nut job.” Have you ever laughed when hearing a joke about hearing voices? Late night talk show hosts had plenty of fodder more than a decade ago when actress Margot Kidder was found partially clothed, hiding in the bushes of an LA suburb.

The subject of mental illness makes us nervous. We laugh about it as a relief valve for our own anxiety and fear. But can you take it too far?

Who’s saying what

My wife  has multiple sclerosis. It is a progressive illness with no cure. She often makes jokes about her illness, speculating about when she will need a wheelchair and telling me we will need to completely renovate our home to accommodate her decreasing mobility. She laughs about these very real topics, appearing on the surface light-hearted.

Her jokes about MS really bother me. They trigger a rush of feelings and incredible anxiety. I know that her jokes are just part of her coping methods, but still I cringe when she talks about putting “bling” on her cane.

When Laura jokes about her MS, I try to give her a pass because she has MS, not me. It is her coping strategy.

It’s sort of like the “N” word. An African-American man can use that word in public without recrimination and make jokes about its connotation and meaning.

If I did the same thing, I could possibly lose my job, certainly many friends.

Society draws a line. If you got it, you can talk about it. Otherwise, keep your trap shut.

Unless it’s Hollywood or the media , and then all bets are off, especially when it comes to mental illness.

In the days following the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech, “Nightly newscasts reported “no known motive” and focused on the gunman’s anger, sense of isolation, and preoccupation with violent revenge. No one who read or saw the coverage would learn what a psychotic break looks like, nor that the vast majority of people with mental disorders are not violent. This kind of contextual information is conspicuously missing from major newspapers and TV,” wrote Richard Friedman in “Media and Madness,” an article published in the June 23, 2008 issue of The American Prospect.

Friedman goes on to explain that “Hollywood has benefited from a long-standing and lurid fascination with psychiatric illness,” referencing movies such as Psycho, The Silence of the Lambs, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and Fatal Attraction.

According to Friedman, “exaggerated characters like these may help make “average” people feel safer by displacing the threat of violence to a well-defined group.”

Since the 2011 Tucson shootings, I have been an out-of-the-closet consumer of mental health services. I have testified before the legislature, published an op-ed in the Portland Press Herald, spoken at community forums.

My mission is to show, in a tangible way, that mental illness is generally not scary and more often than not impacts everyday people: your friends, your co-workers, your neighbors and even your social media contacts.

My life-long struggle with mental illness is not particularly funny, but I do make jokes about it. Have you ever tried to eat a chicken cutlet with a spork? (They don’t give you silverware on the psychiatric unit. )

Did you know that nine out of 10 psychiatric units have aquariums? Fish, apparently, relieve anxiety and stress.

I make these jokes and others when speaking publicly because humor helps break down communication barriers.

I got in trouble

p6On Friday evening, Laura and I attended the Biddeford-Saco Chamber’s annual holiday auction and dinner. By pure coincidence, my bidding paddle was labeled P-6,  the abbreviation of Maine Medical Center’s in-patient psychiatric unit (located on the sixth floor of the Pavilion wing.) I held up the photo and had Laura take a shot of me and my label.

I posted that picture on Facebook.

Some people thought it was funny. Other people did not, questioning why I could joke about mental illness but Gov. LePage could not.

The tricky thing about humor is its intent.

For the record, I chuckled when LePage said Nemitz should be placed on a suicide watch. The two men have been battling for four years, and frankly, I’m not sure who hates who more.

But either way, I think humor is okay, so long as its intent is somewhat calculated and not malicious in nature.

As someone with severe and chronic mental health issues, it’s not up to me or anyone else to tell you what you can joke about. All I ask is that you think about the consequences and lighten up just a tiny bit.

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Who do you love?

cover-classic1.jpgI was saddened this morning to read that the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram will end their longstanding tradition of offering endorsements of political candidates and races.

Although this decision will likely be a popular one among the newspaper’s readers, I think it is a terrible mistake.

In today’s media world, newspapers are struggling to keep up with increasing competition (broadcast journalism, blogs and social media). Newsrooms across the country are also facing other challenges: budgetary constraints that are decimating newsrooms and declining advertising revenues.

For those reasons, and some others, newspapers are losing their gravitas and their once dominant position as the chief source of news and information.

In today’s editorial, the newspaper makes its case for discontinuing endorsements.

“Editorial endorsements are a tradition from the 19th century, when American newspapers were affiliated with political parties. Those newspapers existed to affect the outcome of elections, not just to report on them. The news business changed, but although most newspapers have hung on to the tradition, we could not convince ourselves that hanging on made sense for us.”

The editorial goes to great lengths to disclose its ownership interest by S. Donald Sussman, a frequent contributor to Democratic candidates and the husband of U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree as a another reason why it should refrain from making endorsements.

That is, perhaps, the newspaper’s best argument, but the rest of their argument is weak, and not what one would expect from the state’s largest daily newspaper.

“Some people say that a news organization, because of its access to candidates, is in a better position than the average voter to make a choice, but no voter has a shortage of information these days.”

Based on my own experience working for both newspapers and candidates, this argument is tepid, at best.

For the better part of two decades, I worked as both a reporter and an editor at much smaller, community-based newspapers.

During my days as editor of the Biddeford-Saco-Old Orchard Beach Courier (1999-2006), I ran endorsements of local candidates. Today, as it was then, fewer than 2 of 10 people could tell you who was the councilor from Ward 4 in Biddeford or which city council candidates voted against the proposed school budget.

Today, I no longer cover local politics. I work on public policy issues across the state of Maine and beyond.

I spend very little time in my hometown. It’s now basically where I eat and sleep. If I want to know what’s going on, I read my local newspapers. I view the newspapers as more credible and more informed than a local blogger or what Susie Q. Public posts on her Facebook page.

It’s the same for most people I know. We lead busy lives: our kids need back-to-school clothes, there are bills to pay, lawns to mow, laundry to fold, not to mention the demands of our careers.  I no longer have the luxury of hanging out at City Hall as a paid witness.

But when I was an editor, I could speak with authority about local issues and the players driving them. I had a unique perspective. It was my profession.

Shortly, after I left the newspaper business, that publication also stopped offering endorsements of local candidates. I heard from a lot of people who bemoaned the lack of those endorsements and a vibrant editorial page. The purpose of the editorial page is to be subjective (a departure from the rest of the paper that should be objective and neutral) It’s the whole point of an editorial page: for the newspaper to take an informed position on important issues affecting its readers.

How an endorsement changed my life

Finally, the best reason for making endorsements:

It was almost 13 years ago today that I sat down to write a set of endorsements. There were three candidates seeking two seats on the Old Orchard Beach School Board. This was a minor race that the Press Herald would not weigh in upon. Of those three candidates, one was a respected incumbent and two were political newcomers.

But I made a mistake, I thought there was only one seat available. So, I endorsed the incumbent.

The next day, I got a rather nasty e-mail from one of the candidates who told me I should do a better job with my research.

We traded barbs for several days, an e-mail exchange that eventually turned friendly. I met her on election night, but did not dare speak to her.

There were some more e-mails and then a first date.

And then a second and third date.

We have been happily married now for the better part of 12 years.

If I didn’t make any endorsements, I would have never met the love of my life.

And if that isn’t a good reason for making endorsements, then what is?

If I could go back and do it all over again, I would not change a thing.

 

Color me bad

Elephant_LogoYou find the weirdest stuff on Facebook.

This morning, I stumbled across a new Facebook page that is dedicated to the idea of reclaiming the color blue for Republicans.

At first blush, I thought this was one of the silliest things. But then, I started thinking about it.

Why would the GOP want the color blue versus red? Isn’t red the traditional color for Republicans? Not unless you consider “traditional” as the last 15 years.

According to the Republicans Red No More Facebook page, “center-right parties around the world are Blue, and Social Democrat parties are Red, except in the U.S. where 13 years ago the media assigned Red to the Republicans. “

The page creators argue that for more than a century, Republicans were routinely associated with Blue and Democrats with Red.

That color association was changed, they say, by NBC journalist Tim Russert in 2000 when he assigned Red to Republicans on his electoral map.

Since then, they say, the media has adopted this formula, even though it runs counter to American history and worldwide practice.

Are they right? Well, take a look at the map that NBC used to portray the 1980 presidential election results between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter.

1980 mapBut do colors really matter?

Apparently so. At least to color psychologists:

Color is a form of non verbal communication.  It is not a static  energy and its meaning can change from one day to the next with any  individual.

For example, a person may choose to wear the red one day and  this may indicate they are ready to take action, or they may be  passionate about what they are going to be doing that day, or again it  may mean that they are feeling angry that day, on either a conscious or  subconscious level.

Experts say the color red can cause people to feel rushed, agitated or angry. The color blue, on the other hand is generally associated with serenity. It is also associated with trust, honesty and loyalty.

So, given this information it becomes easy to see why Republicans want to “take back” the color blue.

And what about the rest of the world? Are Social Democratic political parties generally red and center-right parties blue?

That would be true in a wide range of countries, including Finland, Israel and the Czech Republic. In fact, the more you look, the more you will see that conservative or centrist parties are associated with the color blue around the globe.

But I don’t expect the U.S. Democratic Party to go down without a fight in the upcoming color war. After all, the last thing Democrats want is to be associated with the color red (Think Soviet Union, the Red Invasion and all sorts of other negative stereotypes.

Who changed the color? Was it a mainstream media with a liberal bias? Was it an oversight or an intentional switch by the GOP? There’s a lot of conflicting information out there, but one thing is for sure: you can always find some strange stuff on Facebook, which relies on the color blue.

 

Just like a prayer

Bobby Mills

Bobby Mills

Biddeford City Councilor Bobby Mills has a lesson for all of us who use social media.

It doesn’t matter much if the NSA has tapped your phone or if Google is using your online data to create a psychological profile, you have a responsibility to be careful about what you share on social media outlets.

Mills, an elected official, is upset that he was contacted by a local newspaper regarding a potential conflict of interest issue. According to Mills, the newspaper received an anonymous tip regarding something he posted online.

I’ll let Mills tell the story . . .

Interesting enough I just got a phone call interview from the Courier. Someone made an “anonymous” complaint about the unsuccessful Go Fund Me page I set up back in October/November for assistance in our down payment for our lease to own home. Since this page was only created for my family and friends on Facebook I’m simply amazed.
“The complaint was about public officials creating pages seeking donations and conflicts of interests that it may generate.  Seriously.  My family doesn’t live here and any friendships in Biddeford would never be in a situation to assist us if they could. Nonetheless conflicts of interests? Amazing.
 Everytime I’m reelected,  there’s always some “anonymous” nonsense. Hey. Why don’t you call me? 207-[redacted].  Your welcome to come and visit as well. Obviously you know where I live”

Bobby Mills and I have not always seen eye to eye. In fact, I’ve often been one of his loudest critics. But in this story, I feel some of his pain.

Please note: I said some.

Mills and every other adult who uses social media ought to understand how those platforms work. Social media is a power tool in the realm of mass communication, and like any other power tool, you can expect really bad results if you don’t follow some basic guidelines.

Mills said he posted his personal request for the benefit of his family and friends. He didn’t expect criticism or harsh comments about his financial situation from outside his circle of family and friends.

While I sympathize with Mr. Mills’ situation, his defense is extremely weak. He wanted to raise a lot of money (thousands) to help secure a down-payment for a home. You don’t post something online if you don’t want a lot of people to see it.

Rule No. 1 of social media: Never post or tweet anything that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper.

Bobby Mills likes to use social media. In fact, he’s set up a Facebook page for a second run at becoming Maine’s next governor. Criticize him for that, if you want (and I will . . . later), but don’t knock the guy for being in a tight financial spot and then attack his character because of that fact.

Times are tough for a lot of people. There’s nothing wrong with asking family and friends for help. It’s a tough situation. If you haven’t experienced it, thank your lucky stars.

Raising questions about whether Mills’ original fundraising post constitutes a potential conflict of interest is a bit of a stretch.

By all accounts, Bobby Mills is a good husband and father who loves his kids. He holds several jobs and works hard. He gives a lot back to his community. His only crime here is being a bit naïve about how social media works.

However, if Mills still serves as a member of the Biddeford Housing Authority, and if the home’s sale is connected in any way to that agency, then Mills needs to put some distance between his personal objective and his role as a city official.

Elected officials are treated differently by the media for good reason. When you run for office you have to expect that.

And when you post something on Facebook, you should expect that a lot of people will see what you may not want them to see.

UPDATED: Bobby Mills is NOT a member of the Biddeford Housing Authority.

I hear that train a comin’

NOTE: I was just informed by a member of the newspaper’s staff that this is, indeed, just a “holiday thing.” But my concerns remain for the reasons listed below and because “one-time things” have a funny way of becoming “two-time, three-time, four-time things . . .

 

I am hoping it’s just a holiday thing, but I fear it could be a sign of things to come.

CourierThe latest issue of the Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier seemed foreign to me. A free weekly that has been published since 1989, the Courier has always prided itself on being a “hometown newspaper,” exclusive primarily to the communities listed on its mast.

But the latest issue seems to be a compilation of the Courier and two of its sister publications, including the Kennebunk Post.

It’s been a tough decade for newspapers. A sluggish economy has impacted advertising revenues. Online news, combined with social media, has lured readers away from so-called dead tree publications, making it almost impossible for newspapers to be “first with the news.”

For those reasons, I can understand why the Courier’s publishers would be tempted to merge their publications into revamped “regional” weeklies. But this would be a huge mistake.

Before I proceed, a bit of disclosure is in order. I served as the Courier’s editor for the better part of seven years, between 1999 and 2006 under the newspaper’s previous owners. I also served as managing editor of the Courier’s five sister publications between 2002 and 2006.

The Courier and its sister publications were sold by David and Carolyn Flood in 2007 to Sample Media Group, a Pennsylvania media conglomerate that also owns and publishes the Journal Tribune and Times Record.

While working for David and Carolyn, I came to understand the value of a “local” publication. Readers wanted a publication that was focused on their hometown: a newspaper with a staff large enough and bold enough to cover controversial topics at City Hall, but also a publication that would routinely publish information that is often overlooked or dismissed by larger, regional daily publications: The honor roll, local births, expanded obituaries and just about anything else that someone would submit.

There was only one rule: It had to be local. We were not supposed to compete directly with the Portland Press Herald or the Boston Globe. Our success was founded in being different; in being a unique source of news. We were locally owned, locally operated and locally focused. That was our edge.

Moves toward larger regionalization rarely work out for newspapers, especially these days when more people are scrapping for a finite resource of advertising revenues. When local publications lose their local flavor, they also tend to lose their local readership.

As an example, look at the Journal Tribune, formerly the Biddeford-Saco Journal. In the late ’70s, the Journal merged with a daily publication that served the Sanford-Springvale region. That new newspaper has been going down hill since, despite some valiant efforts by a slew of talented journalists and other staffers.

Like every other newspaper, the Courier is also shrinking. And while it may be tempting to merge the publications to save on hefty printing costs, the move would ultimately do more damage than good.

So let’s hope this is just a holiday thing: an effort to get a weekly publication out the door during an especially slow news week (limited staff, vacation schedules, lack of municipal meetings and huge drop-offs in the retail sector).

Otherwise, this move will become another sad chapter in community journalism, especially in this community, which has been spoiled by two daily publications and two weeklies.

Goodbye Stranger

reporterI want to scream.

In a world chock full of culprits that are partially responsible for everything from the “dumbing down of America” to the nomination of Mitt Romney and the advent of Twitter, it’s become increasingly difficult for me to stomach the banality associated with blaming “the media.”

While media criticism is important and necessary, a lot of people who blame “the media” have no idea what they are talking about.

Instead, blaming “the media” has become a catch-all phrase and a convenient target for those who want to ignore two very much larger problems: laziness and stupidity.

There is no question that media has changed, but I challenge you to define the word in its present-day context.

Sure, we can turn to the dictionary and find this: media: (noun) 1.) plural form of medium; 2.) the main means of mass communication (esp. television, radio, newspapers, and the Internet) regarded collectively.

Media, whether it’s a daily newspaper, the evening television news, a blog or something that a “friend” posts on his Facebook page, is multi-faceted, multi-layered and increasingly accessible to every person on the planet.

That’s not necessarily a good thing.

Blaming the media is sort of like blaming your reflection in the mirror for having that fifth margarita or being late to work. Too often, blaming the media is just a convenient form of mental masturbation that serves no good purpose except helping you sleep better at night.

The good ol’ days?

The opening pages of the book Leaving Readers Behind: The Corporate Age of Newspapering contains this stunning contrast of two very different media mission statements:

This is the Journalist’s Creed written by Walter Williams in 1914:  I believe in the professionalism of journalism. I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of their responsibility, trustees for the public; that acceptance of lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust.”

And this is the Statement of Strategic Intent issued by Knight Ridder Newspaper Corp. in 1991:  We stand for excellent  service to customers and communities, a fair, respectful and learning environment for all our employees and a strong return for our shareholders. This responsibility is shared by each of us in Knight Ridder, regardless of title or function.”

So it seems easy to be cynical about the so-called “mainstream media” or as Rush Limbaugh describes it: “the drive-by media.”

Oh, how we long for the good days of journalism; the fair and balanced reporting and the loyalty of preserving the public trust. Too bad it’s gone right?

Wrong.

We are surrounded and inundated with loads of good journalism and a diversity of media that is unparalleled and will be surpassed in its diversity in less than 15 minutes.

Before you moan about the demise of media, or the sentimental loss of the warm and fuzzy images of Walter Cronkite and the proverbial grumpy editor such as Ben Bradlee, chew on this: Why haven’t you switched the channel?

Try it, you’ll like it

Better yet, what’s stopping you from being the media? It’s probably the same four things that stop most media endeavors: Money, Time, Resources and Audience.

Sure, go ahead and bitch about advertiser supported media, but how are you going to pay your reporters?  For those of you who will predictably point to examples such as “listener supported” public broadcasting, you may have missed those corporate announcements at the beginning of each segment.

Without corporate and taxpayer subsidies, National Public Radio would be nothing more than a distant memory because the vast and overwhelming majority of its listeners don’t dig very deep into their own pockets.

Yeah, and state-sponsored media is a sure-fire way to ensure credibility and a lack of bias. I mean, really . . . what would could possibly go wrong if we let the government report to us about the government?

I find it annoying that the bulk of those who bitch about the media have spent zero hours in a newsroom nor  ever required to sit through three hours of a planning board meeting while earning slightly more than minimum wage.

Pull back the curtain

Of course, no one loves to talk more about the media than the media. They are a narcissistic lot, full of righteous indignation. I know this because many of my friends and former colleagues still work in the media. God bless them.

These folks are professionals, but they are no different from anyone else and subject to all sorts of the very same pressures you will find in any other profession: gossip, bias, greed, competition and ego.

A few weeks ago, I found myself on the phone with one of the editors at the Portland Press Herald. I was calling on behalf of one of my clients and asking for a favor.

The editor was a bit pissed off about my intrusion, and he didn’t try very hard to mask his annoyance: “Randy, you used to be a journalist, how can you ask me a question like that?”

Surprisingly, he accepted my honest response. “I’m not a journalist anymore, and you know damn well my current occupation requires me to ask the question even though I know you are going to refuse my request.”

That honest exchange led to a compromise we could both live with: he did not budge and I accepted his decision.

Where’s the good media?

As I said before, we are surrounded by some excellent examples of journalism. A couple of weeks ago, I picked up a copy of the Southern Forecaster newspaper. That free, weekly newspaper was chock-full of solid community-based reporting.

There was an in-depth, comprehensive story about growing tensions between the Scarborough Rod & Gun Club and a group of neighbors who chose to build their homes near the club. It was a universal story about the themes of gentrification and it made me think about the tension in my own community between those who use the Biddeford Airport and their residential neighbors.

Another front-page story examined the plight of the South Portland City Council in light of a recent court decision that would allow municipal employees to serve on municipal boards and committees. Again, the same dynamic is an issue in my own community.

The Forecaster group of newspapers is one of the few remaining Maine-owned media outlets, and its staff seems to understand the importance of digging deep and solid reporting. Mo Mehlsak is the editor of the Forecaster. I remember him from his days as the city editor at the Journal Tribune. He is a newspaperman’s newspaper man: tough, intelligent and insightful. I never had the pleasure of working with him, but I have admired his work for nearly 20 years. He is obviously grooming an exceptional staff of reporters.

Speaking of the Journal Tribune, Tammy Wells has been covering York County issues longer than anyone else. She offers her readers a ton of institutional memory and insight.

When it comes to unbiased reporting and a willingness to cover stories in-depth, check out the work of my former colleague, Kate Irish Collins, a reporter for the Saco-based Sun Chronicle, part of Current Publications, another Maine-owned media outlet. No one person can come close  to matching Kate in producing such a volume of news content with consistent accuracy and lack of bias.

My friend Kelley Bouchard at the Portland Press Herald consistently delivers solid reporting and poignant features. She led off her newspaper’s insightful (and painful) examination of Maine’s aging population. The Challenge of Our Age.

On Election Night, every political junkie in Maine turns to the exceptional coverage provided by the Bangor Daily News.

And if you’re looking for a good compilation of Maine news and opinion, check out Bob Mentzinger’s  Writing Maine feed. Mentzinger is a close friend, but he’s also the editor at the Brunswick Times Record, another afternoon daily that strives every day to produce exceptional journalism on a shoe-string budget.

Yes, there is plenty of room for media criticism, and Al Diamon does an exceptional job of keeping Maine’s media outlets on their toes with his sometimes harsh, yet consistently detailed analysis that can be found in his weekly Media Mutt column published at The Bollard.

These are just a few samples that show it’s not hard to find solid journalism in Maine or anywhere else. You just have to look for it.

The next time you feel like bitching about the media, go take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask yourself this: are you part of the solution or part of the problem?

Too big to fail?

I never expected it to happen so quickly.

Almost every day I am deep in the trenches of public opinion, helping a wide variety of clients navigate the perilous waters of brand reputation management, crisis communications and message development designed to garner strong public support.

But last night it got a bit personal, and I tried a social media experiment.

urlI had an issue with my mobile phone provider, AT&T, one of the nation’s largest corporations. I spent more than an hour on the phone with their customer service representatives, haggling over a bill that was grossly out of balance. You can find the details here.

The company failed on several fronts. First, they did not live up to the promises they made during prior calls about the same issue. Secondly, perhaps more importantly, they let me off the phone without asking me if I was satisfied.

I waited 24 hours and then launched an all-out social media battle with the company. I dragged their competitors into the fray. I hounded their Facebook page and chased them on Twitter. But it all ended rather abruptly.

I never had the chance to execute the second phase of my PR battle because they smartly surrendered and resolved the issue to my satisfaction.

I am just one person, but I used my social media connections to leverage my message. The results were clear. It took fewer than 24 hours for them to surrender to my one-man war on the blogosphere.

This was all preventable. AT&T spent far more than the $1,000 they claimed I owed. They also suffered as others jumped on my bandwagon, further diminishing the company’s brand and reputation.

There are lessons here.

1.) No company is too big to fail.

2.) Do not underestimate the power of social media.

3.) Your brand and reputation are your most important assets and must be guarded.

AT&T ought to take a lesson from companies like AVIS, which authorizes its front-counter rental agents to do whatever it takes to resolve customer complaints; or LL Bean, a company that built a reputation for the quality of its products by honoring their replacement for any reason whatsoever. Or, GWI, a locally owned Biddeford-based ISP and telecommunications provider that always goes the extra mile to make customer satisfaction a top priority.

Fletcher Kittredge of Biddeford started GWI with vision and commitment, but he also had to endure many, many battles with larger telecomm giants. Fletcher proved that you can compete with anyone by focusing on the quality or your product and developing strong relationships with your customers.

AT&T, by comparison, is a multi-billion dollar corporation. Why is it so hard for such a large company to understand or appreciate the value of customer satisfaction and loyalty?