YARMOUTH — I grew up with great respect for newspapers and for the noble and critically important role of journalism in our society.

I share Thomas Jefferson’s perspective from 1787: “The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

I’m writing to suggest that the Portland Press Herald is falling short of Jefferson’s ideal in regard to coverage of the U.S. Senate race here in Maine.

In early March of this year I announced that I was running for the U.S. Senate. I successfully went out and secured the necessary signatures and support of more than 4,300 registered voters to qualify me as an independent candidate.

On May 22, I walked into the Secretary of State’s office in Augusta and became a certified candidate, placing me on the Nov. 6 ballot. (That was a full week before Angus King.)

Since then, I’ve made dozens of campaign appearances, met with thousands of Maine voters and sent out numerous media announcements pertaining to my positions on various issues – all ignored by the Portland Press Herald.

It has been suggested to me by others that principal owner of the Press Herald, Rep. Chellie Pingree’s husband, S. Donald Sussman, supports an editorial policy that favors their very good friend and vacation companion Angus King.

I have too much respect for both Rep. Pingree and Mr. Sussman to believe in that conspiracy theory. But since early March I cannot fathom the Olympic pool of ink and vast forest of trees that have gone into the Press Herald’s coverage of King – virtually all of it glowingly positive.

How is it that I have been an official candidate (determined by the secretary of state) longer than King and the Press Herald continues to assign my candidacy editorial anonymity along with any and all significant policy issues expressed by me while publishing daily love letters to King?

I am an elected official, and King has not served in any government role in a decade.

I own six small businesses, have created hundreds of jobs and have invested millions of dollars into Maine’s economy, and King has done none of those things.

With every political discussion centered on the important subject of jobs, how is it that the one U.S. Senate candidate who has hired and now employs more people here in Maine than all of the other candidates combined is non-existent in the Press Herald’s coverage?

Every month I write large checks to the state of Maine in the form of business taxes, while King cashes large pension checks. I serve on the board of Big Brothers Big Sisters, while King serves or has served on many large corporate boards. How am I marginalized as a “fringe” candidate while King seemingly returned from a 10-year RV trip just in time to claim Olympia Snowe’s Senate seat?

If the Press Herald or any other media outlet has a clear editorial policy in regard to coverage of candidates, it should publish that policy and share it with each and every candidate and reader.

Clearly I do not have the name recognition of Angus King. Very few people or brands (except huge ones such as Coca-Cola, Madonna or Frisbee) will ever have the name awareness of “Angus.”

But does that mean that I can’t or shouldn’t be a viable candidate for public office because of the inherent catch-22 dynamic of what the paper’s editorial policy appears to be?

By the Press Herald’s editorial positioning, it is my opinion that the paper is predetermining and effectively suggesting to readers — and many other media outlets that look to the newspaper for their own content — that some candidates are “top shelf” brands (Angus=Coke, Charlie Summers=Pepsi, Cynthia Dill=Dr Pepper) while others (Steve Woods=Shasta Club Soda) represent lesser or less deserving brands.

Jefferson never intended for newspapers to actively decide the outcome of elections by virtue of their coverage or, in my case, lack of campaign coverage.

In my humble opinion, the paper’s readers and Maine voters are better served if the Press Herald sticks to reporting the news and not applying a selective filter based on what appear to be its own subjective judgments.

If the paper won’t say it or write it, I will: My name is Steve Woods, and I am proud to live, work and invest in Maine. As an independent Senate candidate, it would be my profound honor to serve Maine in the U.S. Senate if I am elected on Nov. 6.

 

– Special to the Press Herald