By Lance Dutson
It used to be a given that politicians sought to be on the right side of the press. As the old adage went, “you shouldn’t pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”
But in Maine, in the era of Paul LePage, that ink has become virtually worthless.
Enshrined in the First Amendment of the Constitution, a free and robust press is a pillar of our democracy. As much as the three branches of government hold the power to check and balance each other, a free press serves as the Fourth Estate, a watchdog over all of them.
At least this is how it’s supposed to be.
In our state, the system has broken down. Our press no longer functions as an effective check on power, and more and more serves as a vessel for the dissemination of false information.
The crux of this breakdown is the governor’s declared policy that he will not answer questions from reporters. In a free society, this is unconscionable. But what’s worse is the fact that the Maine press generally accepts it.
LePage has set up a network of friendly platforms to broadcast his message to the people of Maine, including talk radio and right-wing websites. By shutting down direct objective press access, he’s eliminated the need to justify any of his statements, and can instead lapse into hyperbole and outright falsehoods with no fear of being held accountable.