Last week I wrote about how Maine’s media is handling serial lying by Gov. Paul LePage. That piece, which followed a fact-check of one of LePage’s town hall appearances (and which happened to be followed by a great piece of analysis by BDN reporters Chris Cousins and Mike Shepherd making some of the same points) has helped to prompt a conversation about how the media, the general public and those who exist somewhere in-between can approach this kind of constant, strategic dissembling from Maine’s chief executive.
Interestingly, much of this conversation has played out on conservative talk radio.
On WVOM, morning show hosts George Hale and Ric Tyler spent three full segments (and parts of others) discussing one word from my post (“friendly,” used to describe the live radio programs on which LePage prefers to appear). For one of them, they invited right-talk rival Ray Richardson of WLOB on to get his take.
The conclusion from Hale and Tyler seems to be that they aren’t “friendly” but “fair” in giving Gov. LePage an unfiltered platform, and that they’d do the same for office-holders of other ideological stripes. Richardson, however, readily agreed that he was “extremely friendly” to LePage and considers himself an activist rather than a journalist.
(Richardson also had some kind words for me, and I’d echo them right back – we disagree on almost everything, but he’s an engaging guy, good at what he does and I enjoy talking with him.)
Most of this conversation, however, is missing the point. The real issue here is not how “friendly” to be, but how to deal with LePage’s long litany of lies. Talk radio hosts could certainly do a better job of knowing the issues and correcting misinformation in the moment (and featuring knowledgeable opposing voices or revisiting issues and correcting them later), but I’d also absolutely acknowledge that a live interview isn’t always the best format for fact checking. Most of that burden falls on print and television journalists, and it’s been good lately to see some of them begin to pick up some of the slack.
This morning, I called in for a segment on WVOM discussing these issues in more detail. You can listen to the whole thing here.