September 24, 2013

Letters to the editor: Paper dings Down East at own peril

Oh, the horror of it. Down East: The Magazine of Maine enhanced a cover photograph of Route 24 by eliminating some power lines.

Oh, the silliness of it. The Portland Press Herald revealed this heinous act Sept. 19 with a front-page piece of investigative journalism ("Down East magazine attracts criticism for altering photo"). At first reading I thought the date must be April 1.

Consider:

• Every photograph ever made is a distortion of reality.

• When it runs black and white photos, does the Press Herald run editorials protesting that tree trunks are really brown, not black, and that leaves are really green, not gray?

• If a contemporary Winslow Homer painted the Down East cover in oils, would critics demand the inclusion of power lines?

• Most viewers looking at that cover would understand it as an idealistic view.

• People who wish to see beauty see beauty. People who wish to see warts see warts.

• Investigative journalists are trained to find warts, and that's a good thing. But maybe they should focus more on the foibles and failures of Paul LePage, less on the fancies of those who use artistic license to present Maine's beauty.

• Readers looking for news of Maine do not typically go first to Down East. They rely on papers like the Press Herald -- even though they understand that the papers' photographs show only parts of scenes and only approximations of truth.

I'll hope for more substance in future issues of the paper. Or will I find a follow-up protesting that the words on the Down East cover were not really there in the scene the photographer shot?

Richard S. Kimball
Portland

Ending the physics major would be a terrible move

I'm writing in response to the University of Southern Maine's recent announcement of a plan to terminate the physics major.

Physics is a fundamental subject, necessary for any school that intends to call itself a university. Physics courses are required for many vital fields such as chemistry, biology, pre-med and any field of engineering. A smaller department with reduced funding will result in lower-quality education for students in all of these disciplines.

The university should put the needs of its students and the quality of its education above its desire to balance the budget. The university's decision is a step backward for our state, and should be reversed to preserve one of the few opportunities Maine offers for education in STEM fields, an area in which the state is horribly lacking.

Our state has many bright young minds, and this decision sends the message to students pursuing a career in STEM fields that there is no place for them here.

Those prospective physicists who don't wish to attend college far north in Orono will be forced to attend schools out of state, where they will most likely remain.

Patrick Wallace
Gorham

The University of Southern Maine is an important source of the engineers and scientists who make up the technical work force for many productive and growing technology companies in southern Maine.

Despite a demonstrable record of profitability, the university's administration is attempting to sharply decrease the effectiveness of its physics department.

The department provides an important science opportunity for southern Maine residents while supporting engineers and other STEM departments at USM.

The students and faculty of USM strongly believe that the loss of the USM physics department will be a devastating blow to the state of scientific education in southern Maine and will result in a degradation in the quality of education for future engineers and STEM students hired by companies such as Texas Instruments, Idexx Laboratories, Artel and various other engineering firms.

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