Last week was an interesting week for our newspapers.

A front page in a recent Free Press about Patrisha McLean’s domestic violence exhibit, at Camden Library, took an unexpected turn. A day after her talk, a letter arrived.

It came from local attorney Rick Morse, representing music icon Don McLean (Patrisha’s ex-husband), insisting the feature story was a lie and must come down or face the music.

This became the story; we explained to readers why we took it down and why we put it back online. For fairness, we ran the letter from McLean’s attorney and the rebuttal from the newspapers' attorney, allowing readers to judge.

We ran photos of bruises on Patrisha’s arm and the splintered bathroom door, evidence of who was telling the truth. It wasn’t, as some readers alluded, a “he said, she said” — it was “he said, she has documented proof."

Another story emerged. Don McLean, years after the domestic violence occurred, was trying to silence Patrisha, and the local newspaper, on the exhibit, which includes 17 other women, with documented stories shared with the public.

The "free press" did its part when Alice McFadden, named in the letter, wrote the story about the story in the Courier papers. Statewide papers and televisions stations expanded the story, talking about how the wealthy bully their victims with threats of lawsuits to keep truth out of news.

The playbook is to call it “fake news” and double down. In this case, that didn’t work for McLean. Instead, the Streisand effect happened — AP took the story national and international.

“The Streisand effect is a phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the internet. It is an example of psychological reactance, wherein once people are aware that some information is being kept from them, their motivation to access and spread it is increased…named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose 2003 attempt to suppress photographs of her residence in Malibu, California, inadvertently drew further public attention to it.” — Wikipedia


In letters to the editor last week, I was taken to task for my treatment of Paula Sutton in a recent column.

Bev Cowan of Rockland wrote: “Free speech isn’t free,” saying Paula’s female genital mutilation ad was a “media blackout.” Bev fails to address my only issue, that it was rejected not for what it said, but for how. Said repeatedly, the message was fair game, but not the inappropriate graphics. Bev complains about having to pay media to get your message out after we ran Paula’s letter, unedited and free of charge, followed by running multiple letters from opposing views.

Kerin Resch of Warren adds that the press acts “judge, jury and executioner.” Is that because this column shared a viewpoint opposite his? Cathy Cooper of Rockland, “Defending Paula Sutton,” echoed Trump’s mantra that “liberals ignore the message and concentrate on impugning character,” charging Midcoast reporters with a “vendetta” and “bully tactics.” The Courier-Gazette asked Paula to participate in a debate, with same rules as all candidates. Paula asked for pre-written questions instead. The newspaper refused, telling Paula this didn’t allow for stream-of-flow follow-up. She didn’t like that answer, and stayed home.

Heidi Sirocki of Scarborough added, “Sutton deserves sympathy, not mockery,” asserting my column “assassinated” Paula’s character and that Editor Andy O’Brien’s sources were “unproven.” There was no assassination of character; the opposite was true. Kudos to Paula having discussion with our readers. “Unproven” also untrue; Andy cited court documents and quotes from local newspapers where Sutton’s father used racist language (wetback) in referring to Mexican immigrants. Joe Sutton paid a substantial settlement, which is also fact.

Gene Graves from Rockport weighed in: “Illegals should stay home”; the headline expresses his view. Ann-Marie Grenier of Windham writes “build the wall” and “saddened” that “people attack the character of those simply willing to tell their story.” Gene Terrien of Rockport finishes with “Newspapers should report responsibly,” a bashing on what we do and how we do it. In regards to “revamping” our policies, it was not a general statement, Gene; it was specific to political ads with inappropriate graphics — the reason the ad was rejected.


Dale Hayward of Rockland writes “Paper not worth increased price,” citing a 40-percent newsstand increase (50 cents). What Dale and readers perhaps aren’t aware of is that paper tariffs last year sent newsprint from $550 a ton to over $750 — an increase of over 40 percent. That’s how we can increase with a “straight face.”

We believe stories like the one told last week regarding Patrisha McLean and domestic violence are also a good reason. It cost to report that story; three reporters, editors, and legal costs.

Newspapers are still less than a cup of coffee at Dunkin' Donuts.

The Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to bare the secrets of government and inform the people.” — Hugo Lafayette Black, politician, Supreme Court Justice (1886-1971)