The April 2 article “West End homeowners move to dissolve historic district,” by Staff Writer Randy Billings, abetted by his editor, did not deserve its front-page placement nor its breaking-news headline.

The article features extensive treatment of a letter criticizing the historic district status of the West End of Portland. The letter is from a single homeowner, not homeowners, as characterized in the headline. The article references “neighborhood” opposition to the district, but provides only the letter writer’s name. She refused to be interviewed by Billings, who then, surprisingly, cites all of her grievances with no critical analysis. Were they true or not? Who knows?

Then there are the dozen other purported homeowners with supposed complaints – none of their names is given, and the only one who Billings talks with says he had no idea he was signing on to a letter to repeal the West End’s historic district status. Is that true of the 11 others as well? We don’t know. If corroborating interviews are central to reporting, but people aren’t talking, maybe the article isn’t ready for prime time.

Finally, the timing. On April 5, the City Council will be reconsidering its Feb. 1 vote on the designation of Munjoy Hill as a historic district. The small number of Munjoy Hill residents, and developers, who oppose its designation must be taking comfort in the Press Herald’s story. It reminds me that every political trickster’s dream is a last-minute negative front-page story on their opponent, appearing in a major newspaper – especially if it’s non-rebuttable on a holiday weekend.

Michael Petit

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: