More than this . . .

I have made more than my fair share of bad decisions — from thinking I could drive just a few more miles to the next rest stop, to throwing some kerosene onto a campfire.

For more than nearly 30 years, I lived my life with no clear direction, no purpose, no meaning.

Failure, it seemed, was at every turn. I joined the Air Force but washed out after nearly completing basic training. Then I went to college. Yup, you guessed it: I dropped out. I toyed with the idea of becoming a priest, but that did not last more than one summer.

I crisscrossed the country in search of peace, stability and worthiness: Maryland, Tennessee, Arizona and Oregon. No matter where I lived, I felt lost and lonely, unable to hold down a job for more than a year at a time.

Flash forward to 1997 and my return to Maine. I worked a few odd jobs before being hired as a sports writer (bear in mind I know nothing about sports) but I loved that job. I loved the idea of getting paid to do what I love: to write.

In the autumn of 1998, I was hired as a reporter at the Biddeford-Saco-OOB Courier. I was working in my hometown, getting paid to be a political junkie. Suddenly, my life had some meaning. I think if you ask my publishers (David and Carolyn Flood) they would tell you that I worked my ass off. But it didn’t feel like work.

It was fun.

I became the editor of that newspaper and David gave me a wide berth when it came to the newsroom. I started a column called All Along The Watchtower. Suddenly, people knew who I was.

I made friends. I made enemies, but I was still having a grand time.

Flash forward to the local election season in 2001. Our country was still grappling with the horrific losses of 9/11. It was a tense time in our nation’s history. Local elections (city council, school board, etc.) seemed so trivial within the larger context of things.

There were three candidates running for two vacant seats on the Old Orchard Beach School Board: an incumbent (Sharon Inkpen) and two political newcomers: Dora Mills and Laura Kidman Hayes.

I made a mistake in my endorsements for that race (one that I didn’t consider very important) Really, what newspaper ever covered the OOB School Board? With only a couple of weeks left before the election, I gave my endorsement to the incumbent, thinking that there was only one seat up for grabs.

It was the best mistake I ever made!

Within hours of that issue hitting the streets, I received an e-mail from Laura Kidman-Hayes. In part, she wrote: “If I were the editor of a newspaper, I would get my facts straight.”

I replied with a snippy response that barely acknowledged my mistake. Later that day, I found myself on Main Street commiserating with a Portland Press Herald reporter about the upcoming elections. Without too much detail: Grace Murphy told me that Ms. Kidman-Hayes was very cute, and she showed me a file photo of the candidate.

I immediately raced back to my office in order to send Ms. Kidman-Hayes another e-mail: a bit more contrite, even though I thought she might be married because of the hyphenated last name.

I loathe hyphenated last names.

Within minutes after I sent her my second email, she sent me another e-mail and that’s how it went for a few days. Eventually, I made her a deal: if she won, I would actually cover a meeting of the OOB School Board. If she lost, I would buy her a cup of coffee because there would be no conflict.

On election night. I was a bundle of jangled nerves as I drove to OOB to “check” on the status of the polling place (yeah, right). Laura was standing in the hallway along with the other candidates, shaking hands with incoming voters.

I took one look at her and I knew that she was way out of my league. I curtly shook hands with her and dashed into the gymnasium to chat with the town clerk. I wanted to appear like I did not care.

Not a thing

The election was over. The streets were quiet and softly lit with a mid-autumn moon. I went to bed, feeling like an idiot.

On the next day, I checked my e-mail messages at the office. Ms. Kidman Hayes had sent me an e-mail. She included three telephone numbers where she could be reached: her office phone, her home phone and her cell-phone.

I could not believe it. I asked one of my coworkers if he thought that she really wanted me to call her. “She gave you three telephone numbers. Are you really that stupid?”

I called her and asked if she wanted to have dinner with me on Sunday. She said yes. I planned on eating at Traditions on Main Street in Saco. But I forgot that they were closed on Sundays. I was a nervous wreck. I was ashamed of my 1993 Ford Escort station wagon that had muffler issues. I was ashamed because she owned her own home and I was still living in a one-bedroom apartment two flights above the Happy Dragon restaurant on Main Street in Biddeford.

We ended up at the 99 Restaurant. We were seated at a back table. We were there for a little more than three hours but neither of us ordered any food. We were too nervous, but we decided — right then and there — that we would like to try embarking on an exclusive relationship.

That was 19 years ago today. Wow time flies. T-Ball games, house hunting, pets, family deaths, kayaking, camping, different jobs and home renovation projects blend into a blur of happiness, of meaning . . .

Of purpose.

The best mistake ever.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

Earlier this week, my community lost a great man. Don Wilson was 73 and apparently living with severe depression. Hopefully we all learned a lesson from this tragic event: Mental health disorders can be fatal, especially without professional health treatment.

Can you imagine being in so much pain that you would hurl yourself in front of a moving train?

Mr. Wilson (as I will always call him) was a community hero. Within hours of his death, our community rallied around his family. A multitude of sympathy was shared on social media, and we all wondered what went wrong.

Mr. Wilson was woven into the fabric of Biddeford. He touched hundreds (if not thousands) of lives. He was so dedicated as a teacher, coach and athletic director. Everyone, it seemed, had a story to tell, a favorite remembrance or a funny story about him.

He was a gregarious community leader who spent so many years supporting every life he touched. Smiling, generous, humorous and full of life is how so many of us described him.

But in the latter days of his life he was fighting an inner war with some very powerful demons.

According to reports by his friends and family, he openly talked about his feelings. He was, reportedly, recently hospitalized for depression. But finally, he could not fight the pain anymore.

I simply cannot imagine his pain. His suffering. His fragility.

Tough guys don’t dance.

Mr. Wilson was a role model for me. He was a gentlemen who did not speak a bad word about anyone. As I said before: he was kind and generous; quick with a smile and always willing to help.

Mr. Wilson was from a generation that usually did not talk openly about depression or suicide. Typically, obituaries of those who committed suicide described the death as “died unexpectedly.”

And there is an abundance of stigma associated with mental health, especially among men. Depression is a sign of weakness and laziness, society says. “Stop your pity party and stop feeling sorry for yourself.”

Unlike so many men of his generation, Mr. Wilson courageously bucked that trend. He shared his feelings with friends and family members. But in the end he lost that battle. In the final hours of his life he took matters into his own hands.

Some people die from cancer and some people survive. That is true for almost every illness, including mental illness. Talking about mental health is not easy. In fact, it can be overwhelming.

I still cringe when I hear someone refer to a psychiatrist as a “shrink.” I could write all day about the stigma associated with mental health.

Until we all can accept mental health disorders as genuine and potentially fatal illnesses, we will have people fighting an invisible and overwhelming war.

Depression is not feeling sorry for yourself. Having depression is not a sign of laziness. Depression does not discriminate.

Depression is a pervasive disease, but it can be treated. If you or someone you care about is fighting depression and/or suicidal thoughts, please contact the national suicide hotline: 1-888-568-1112, 24 hours a day, seven days per week and 365 days a year.

Thank you, Mr. Wilson for all that you gave to your community. As far as I’m concerned, you remain as a role model for me.

Joe Biden: The Comeback Kid?

A few days ago, I was drawn into yet another Facebook political debate. I can’t help it. I’m a political junkie and off my meds.

The debate was about the 2020 presidential campaign, and I made the comment that I identify as a “right-leaning moderate”

Within a few seconds after writing that post, some guy (a “friend of a friend” ) attacked me and said I was not a moderate . . .blah, blah, blah.  . . .because I am not a big fan of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential bid.

At first I thought that I should just move on. I don’t know the guy and we had never met or interacted before. But I could not help myself. I decided to defend my position and my lack of enthusiasm for Joe Biden.

In summary, I posted that I was indeed a moderate Republican — to the left of people such as Sean Hannity, former Maine governor Paul LePage and President Trump (even though I did vote for Trump in 2016). Before my ardent friends on the left hyperventilate, I will not be supporting Trump’s re-election campaign.

I voted twice for George W. Bush. I also voted for the John McCain/Sarah Palin ticket in 2008. I  posted that I identify with other moderate Republicans such as Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and former Secretary of Defense (and former Maine Senator) William Cohen.

I voted for Barack Obama in 2012, yet I  still considered myself to be a so-called “moderate,” steering left of hyper conservatives such as Mitch  McConnell, Lindsay Graham and Rush Limbaugh, but  to the right of outspoken liberals, such as Rachel Maddow, Jimmy Kimmel and Chuck Schumer.

This year, I will hold my nose and cast my vote for Biden. But I am worried about his mental health and his ability to execute the duties of the president.

>>>>>>>

Jolting Joe has left and gone away

Joe Biden is all but assured to be the Democrats’ choice to prevent another four years of Donald Trump.

But is Biden really the best candidate for Democrats? After almost four years of the Trump Administration, the Democrats throw Biden into the ring to take down Trump? Really? That’s the best they got?

I have my own theory about why Biden came out on top: he is not an extremist. He is experienced and he is likable. But most of all, he is a moderate and may also be able to pull some fence-sitting, moderate Republicans like me: RINOs (Republicans In Name Only).

And here’s a conspiracy theory I have heard about:  The Democratic Party is banking on the probability that Biden (if elected) won’t be able to finish his first term; thus his vice presidential pick is critical — not to mention the need to fire up the Dems and increase voter turnout from younger voters who may otherwise stay at home on Election Day.

Several weeks ago there was an op-ed published in the Washington Post   that details several examples of behavior and missteps that lead to a troubling possibility: Biden may have some serious cognitive issues.

In fairness, the op-ed penned by Marc A. Thiessen also reminds us that President Reagan had his own cognitive issues.

Furthermore, Biden’s age could be another chink in his political armor. Thiessen points out the following:

“Joe Biden is 77, four years older than Reagan was during the 1984 campaign. If Biden is elected, he’ll be older on the day he takes office than Reagan was on the day he left office. So yes, his mental fitness is a legitimate issue.”

As I pointed out in my aforementioned Facebook post. I am a political junkie and a second-rate pundit with an internet connection and a keyboard.  But, over the course of my  professional roles (journalist, public policy and political consultant,) I know it is critically important to remember that voters are more likely drawn to voting FOR a candidate as opposed to voting AGAINST a candidate.

Then again, tapping Sarah Palin as a running mate didn’t accomplish much for John McCain. Why? Because voters were electrified by Barack Obama and his charisma. Obama could have picked Vito Corleone as his running mate and still would have won the race by a landslide.

In summary? Biden’s choice of a running mate is of paramount importance.

Joe Biden is no Barack Obama. He needs to widen his base, including young voters, progressives, the LGBTQ community and yes — even moderate Republicans like me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outrageous Fortune

Noam Galai | Getty ImagesEvery time I start to feel a bit of optimism about the future, the reality hammer drops on my head.

Today, we learned that restaurants in southern Maine will not be able to re-open as originally scheduled  because of ongoing concerns about the Cov-19 epidemic.

The social media reaction to this news has been swift from both sides of the political aisle, Republicans blame Janet Mills and Democrats blame President Trump.

There are posts calling for an armed revolution to overthrown Maine Governor Janet Mills.  “. . .Open up anyways and bring your guns!!! ,” wrote one poster on Facebook.

In the Shakespearean play Hamlet, the young prince contemplates suicide, best referenced within this famous soliloquy: To Be or Not to Be.

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them.
People on the right are still referencing mask wearers as “sheep,” unable to discern the truth.
People on the left use terms like “mouth breather,” to describe conservatives.
There doesn’t seem that there is any middle ground.
And now the news released today by the governor: dine-in restaurants in southern Maine will need to remain closed until further notice, as opposed to a cautious opening date of June 1.
Think of all those businesses that purchased food and supplies as they geared up for June 1. Think about the employees called back to work. What does the future hold?
From my perspective, the future looks pretty grim, so I have designed my own plan for businesses that want to open on June 1:
  • Let the restaurant owners decide if they want to open or not.
  • Let customers decide on whether they want to frequent these establishments
  • Let the employees decide whether they want to work.
  • For people who have a weakened immune system (like my wife) stay at home.
  • For people who do not want go to public places, do not go there. You can order groceries and food online.
This my five-point plan. What do you think?

 

The war of the words

I am 56 years-old. I am a white man. I live in the suburbs. I have two healthy sons and an amazing wife.

I have nothing to complain about. But still I have a knack for finding political fights on social media platforms.

I used to be a journalist, and then a columnist. I put food on my family’s table by sharing my opinions every week.

Please, however, make no mistake, I am today a little more than a second-rate pundit with a boatload of opinions, a keyboard and an internet connection. Sadly, a lot of other people I know are in the same boat.

When I was growing up, I was taught that voting, and politics were private things. That’s why we have curtains at the voting booth: to keep our choices private. Back then, however, we didn’t have an internet and access to so many people.

According to Facebook, I have more than 1,100 “friends.” Let’s get real. I can count the number of my friends on two hands,

“We are reckless in our use of the lovely word friend,” or so wrote French author Romain Rolland in 1913.

I am guilty of being a political monger, easily sucked into meaningless debates on Facebook and Twitter. But I also like to think I am a political centrist, and that it would be difficult to discern my political orientation based on my social media postings.

Maybe I am kidding myself. Maybe not.

I find it curious that so many people spend so much time engaged in political debates on social media outlets, some of which become quite heated as these amateur pundits duke it out on the world-wide web.

Both Democrats and Republicans (in almost equal measure) line up in their own turf and pontificate why their points are absolute truth. Are these people trying to recruit more members? Are they hoping to influence our nation’s political discourse?

Following my career in journalism, I accepted a job as a public relations professional. Yes, social media is a powerful communications tool in today’s world of political engagement, but every PR pro knows that it must be handled with precision.

Do you really think that name calling, badgering and screeching hardcore positions will “convert” someone from a different camp?

How much time do you spend on social media platforms, engaged in political debates?

Is it worth it?

A sheep speaks out

I wear a mask when I go to the grocery store or any other place where large numbers of people congregate.
I am not a sheep. I am not afraid of Covid-19. I do not wear a mask to keep myself safe. I wear a mask because it may lower the odds (if only a minuscule number) of making OTHER people sick. I could have the virus, but the odds on that are also minuscule.
I find it sad (sometimes laughable) that some people equate being asked to wear a mask in public is some form of tyranny or as a call to arms. Jesus H. Christ, do these people get their knickers in a knot when asked to wear a shirt or shoes in a grocery store or a restaurant?
Can’t we just be considerate of others? How hard is it to wear a mask when you go to the store? Really, is this the platform for patriots to rise up against a “tyrannical” government? A fucking mask?
The biggest reason I wear a mask?
It’s because my wife is immunocompromised. She has MS, an underlying condition that increases her risk to COVID-19. So yeah, I’m kind of a big believer in wearing a mask in public.
You think I’m a fucking sheep; a dolt who is ready to submit to the evil government, the doctors and scientists who are all members of some grand conspiracy because I wear a mask?
Is wearing a mask such a burden? If you think so, can’t you at least be considerate of your fellow human beings?
Just wear a mask. Please

Pandemic sheds light on media bias

As we continue coping with the Covid-19 pandemic, it is now more important than ever for the media to take extra steps to ensure that their news stories are fact-based, without hype, without speculation and a minimum of bias.

Wait. Did I just say “a minimum of bias?”

Conservative news consumers on the right of America’s political spectrum often talk about bias, screeching that media outlets such as the New York Times and MSNBC television are in the pockets of left-wing billionaires and prominent Democrats.  President Trump gleefully eggs them on, attacking the ‘liberal’ media of delivering so-called “fake news.”

Meanwhile, those on the left side of the political spectrum dismiss news outlets such as FOX news and the Washington Times, saying those media outlets are dripping in conservative rhetoric.

Are the pundits right? Do “news” outlets practice media bias?

According to two veteran journalists, the answer is yes, with varying moderation.

Dennis Bailey, who now lives in Washington, DC, is a veteran journalist who spent several years as a reporter working for the Maine Times and Portland Press Herald. He readily acknowledges that his personal politics are more in line with Democrats.

“I’ve never been a believer in objective journalism,” Bailey said. “A good story is a good story but it does come with some bias.”

Bailey points to certain realities about how the news story is produced. “A reporter often decides what story to follow,” he said. “From there, an editor decides the placement of a story and the headline of that story. These are all subjective decisions.”

On the other side of the political aisle, John Day, who spent several decades as a reporter and then as an editor of the Bangor Daily News, agrees with Bailey about media bias.

“I’m a big fan of diversity,” Day said. “But I was always a contrarian. Fake news has always been around. If all news outlets reported every story the same way, then it would be nothing more than a giant circle jerk.”

Although they seem to disagree on just about everything, the two men agree that journalism has gone through some profound changes over the last 30 years, including the 24-hour news cycle and social media.

“People today have a much wider range of choices when it comes to the news,” Bailey said. “There is a notable absence of media literacy today. You can find anything you want to support your own views on the internet.”

Bailey and Day both point to the Watergate scandal and the role that the media played during that crisis. The Washington Post led the way on the story while the New York Times and other media outlets took a more measured approach.

“Walter Cronkite was the godfather of news,” Bailey said. “He was such a trusted guy. We don’t have that anymore.”

According to Day, more than 95 percent of news stories about President Trump are negative while stories about Maine Senator Angus King are nearly always positive. “Angus is not much more than a boot licker for Chuck Schumer,” he said.

The lines between news and opinion are becoming more and more blurred as cable news shows fill air time with pundits such as Rachel Maddow on the left and Sean Hannity on the right.

Today, too many people pick their news source to align with their personal viewpoint, according to both Bailey and Day.  “I have more respect for CNN than MSNBC,” Day said. “At least they try to be objective with guests such as Chris Christie.”

So long as media outlets chase ratings and circulation, their ability to maintain objectivity becomes more difficult.

We need to be increasingly vigilant about how we get and choose our news sources.

President Trump is not the first president to have a deep disdain for the White House press corps. More than 50 years ago, former president Richard Nixon lashed out at the media following his loss to Democrat Pat Brown in the California gubernatorial election.

Appearing before more than 100 reporters, Nixon didn’t mince his words about his frustration with the media. “You don’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference,” the candidate said.

More recently, an editorial published in the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2015, James Risen, then a reporter at The New York Times, called the Obama administration “the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation.”

As Walter Cronkite consistently said at the end of each of his evening broadcasts: “And that’s the way it is.”

We miss you, Walter.

 

(Originally published in the Saco Bay News on May 2, 2020)

 

All Along the Watchtower

(previously published in Saco Bay News)

It seems ironic that this is “Sunshine Week.”

No, it has nothing to do with Daylight Saving Time, but as the world grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic it becomes even more important for the media to “keep a check” on our government whether federal, state or local.

Sunshine Week was founded in 2005, and its purpose is to provide the media (and the general public) with the tools and resources necessary to ensure that government operations are open and transparent. Sunshine as opposed to darkened backroom deals among government officials.

More than 200 years ago, during a debate in the British Parliament, Edmund Burke coined a phrase to describe the media: “The Fourth Estate.” It was a recognition of the media’s power and responsibilities. We have a system of checks and balances between the branches of our government in this country. The First Estate is the executive branch; the Second Estate is the legislature; and the Third Estate is the judiciary.

Spiderman comics coined the phrase “With great power comes great responsibility.”  But the media cannot exercise its power if the government operates in secret or manipulates the flow of information.

Fortunately, the media (and the general public) have an awesome and powerful tool in their arsenal.

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1966 just as the Viet Nam War was heating up. FOIA provides the media with legal muscle in order to keep the public informed about government affairs.

One of the earliest and most notable uses of the FOIA was its role in the Watergate scandal. Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein had to use extraordinary tactics, which included FOIA, in order to get to the truth that eventually crumbled Richard Nixon’s presidency.

The media plays an important role in disseminating the news. In fact, it is the media that frames the story, whether it’s a global issue like the Corona virus, a national story such the Democratic primary or a local issue such as the city of Biddeford’s plan to construct a parking garage.

All over the globe, the media has changed drastically over the last 30 years or so. Today, news consumers have more options than ever before. Today, we have a 24-hour news cycle that is voracious, supported by advertising and highly competitive. The days of Walter Cronkite and the neighborhood paperboy are behind us.

Today, consumers have a plethora of choices about where to get their news. You can watch CNN on your smart phone while riding the subway. But how do we know whether your choice of media is trustworthy? We don’t. The cure for this problem is for you to gather your news from a variety of news sources.

If we want the media to be fair, balanced and accurate, we must ensure that reporters (and even back yard pundits) have access to the information that allows them to keep the government in check because our representative government is obligated to be open and transparent.

This year, Sunshine Week runs from March 15 to March 21 (the first day of spring).

Open your windows and pull up your blinds. Let the sun shine into your life so that you can make informed decisions and choices.

Remember, it’s your government.

 

Climate Change: what your parents never told you

‘In the absence of science, religion flourishes . . .’

-Unknown

light light bulb bulb heat
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One of today’s most hotly debated public policy matters is the subject of Climate Change, formerly known as “global warming.”

Before I go any further with a blog post that will surely divide my followers and Facebook “friends,” let’s get right to the meat of the matter.

When former vice president Al Gore declared that “the planet has a fever,” he was right. Global Climate Change (GCC) simply cannot be denied.

I am not a scientist, geologist or meteorologist. I am just another pundit with yet another point of view.

But while my friends on the left are far more likely to celebrate my above statements about the reality of GCC, I have some serious misgivings about many of their proposals to “fix the problem.” Recently hundreds of high-school students skipped classes to rally against GCC.

They should have hit the books instead.

When debating GCC, we should be able to acknowledge some fundamental facts:

  • Planet Earth is approximately 4.543 billion years old;
  • The Ice Age began 2.4 million years ago, lasting until approximately 11,500 years ago;
  • Humans began roaming the planet approximately 200,000 years ago.

So what do these facts tell us?

Well, for starters, the earth’s climate has been changing for a long, long time and humans had little to no impact on the earth’s atmosphere until about 50 years ago.

But before we begin any conversation about GCC, we should check our emotions at the door. This is a complex issue, and rhetoric – from either deniers or fanatics – won’t do a damn thing except possibly increasing your blood pressure.

Climate Change Impacts: A brief history

If you want to talk about other impacts that affect GCC, let’s take a relatively short journey back in time.

According to an article by Karen Harpp, an assistant professor of geology at Colgate University, published in the Scientific American newsletter:

In 1784, Benjamin Franklin made what may have been the first connection between volcanoes and global climate while stationed in Paris as the first diplomatic representative of the United States of America. He observed that during the summer of 1783, the climate was abnormally cold, both in Europe and back in the U.S. The ground froze early, the first snow stayed on the ground without melting, the winter was more severe than usual, and there seemed to be “a constant fog over all Europe, and [a] great part of North America.”

What Franklin observed, Harpp writes was “indeed the result of volcanic activity.”

“Natural forces cause Earth’s temperature to fluctuate on long timescales due to slow changes in the planet’s orbit and tilt,” according to a Q & A published by Climate Communication, which is a non-profit science and outreach project. “Such forces were responsible for the ice ages. Other natural forces sometimes cause temperatures to change on short timescales.”

On the other side of the debate there is plenty of scientific evidence regarding human impact on GCC, especially so in the last 50 years. The human impact has, in fact, outpaced natural impacts.

So what do we do?

Industrialized nations (United States, Japan, China, Russia, Great Britain, India and France) have more responsibility because of their bigger global impact. The 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change was signed by all of these counties and many more nations that have a far lower impact or produce fewer greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide.

And then there is the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, an international treaty that extends the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based on scientific consensus.

I don’t dispute the science that provides more than ample evidence of human impact on climate change, but I am an ardent opponent of so-called carbon taxes. Just a few days ago, the state of Maine rejected the notion of placing a dedicated tax on gasoline and home heating oil. Phew! We dodged another bullet.

So-called carbon taxes are the rallying cry of the activists, but those additional taxes would place a further burden on the citizens who can least afford it.

Maine Governor Janet Mills is pushing for a $50 million bonding package that would study the impact of rising sea levels on coastal Maine communities. “We’re all in this together,” she said.

Rather than creating yet more taxes, perhaps we should focus more attention on creating incentives to reduce greenhouse gases.

I have worked as a public relations consultant on several energy projects, including wind power and an LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) terminal in eastern Maine. I was always amazed when environmentalists opposed clean, renewable sources of energy, citing bird strikes and the need for flickering red lights atop wind turbines. I live in a community that once burned trash to generate electricity, but don’t get me started on that boondoggle.

We humans have a right to occupy this planet and we all share an inherent responsibility to be good stewards of our natural resources. I recently took a quick gander around my house, comparing it to my parents’ home. When I was growing up there were no microwave ovens. We didn’t have a dishwasher, flat-screen televisions or computers.

I am not suggesting that we should get rid of these things, but maybe we could be more mindful about our energy consumption, and explore expanding clean energy sources such as hydro projects – and yes – nuclear power. (Last week, Forbes magazine published an article that examined the safety of nuclear power plants.)

In a March 11 Portland Press Herald editorial, the editorial board wrote that “the global climate fight will take many forms.”

I could not agree more.

Wag the dog

If I had any doubts about the increasingly dominating role of new media over traditional media, they were vanquished yesterday while watching ABC’s World News Tonight.

In the A-block of the evening news program (ranked second between NBC and CBS) Anchor David Muir told us a story about a tweet that Donald Trump sent earlier in the day to commemorate Cinco de Mayo.

Perhaps because Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee for the presidency and because his  tasteless Taco Bowl tweet had gone viral, ABC treated it as one of their top new stories.

ABC’s Taco Bowl Tweet story included reporting that Hillary Clinton’s team fired off a response tweet using Trump’s own words to discredit him. The story also mentioned that 81 percent of Hispanic Americans have an unfavorable view of Trump.

ABC was certainly not alone in covering the Taco Bowl incident. The social media gaffe was covered by every other network, including cable news giants CNN and FOX, not to mention the print media, including the Associated Press, USA Today and Reuters.

In each of these stories, something that transpired in the world of new media was being reported by the old media giants in a classic game of react and catch-up.

Trump tweeted his photo some five hours before ABC’s evening news broadcast. How many people had already seen the tweet?

I will not argue the newsworthy merits of Trump’s tweet, but it struck me that the once dominating news giants were again scrambling to keep up with their more nimble counterparts in the world of social media.

Whether it is a political campaign or your business reputation on the line, what you do and say on social media has significant consequences. That’s why I always tell my clients to be very careful and not post anything on social media that you don’t want to see on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper.

The tables have turned. The rules have changed. You are the media. Take your role seriously.


Randy Seaver is a former newspaper reporter and editor. He also has more than a decade of experience as a strategic communications consultant, helping a wide range of clients overcome challenges in the court of public opinion.  Learn More