Maine Editors Targeted By Bloggers Will Sit Out U.S. Senate Race

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By: E&P Staff

Bangor (Maine) Daily News Executive Editor, who is married to an aide to incumbent Republican U.S. Senator Susan Collin and the newspaper’s assignment editor, who is a cousin of her Democratic challenger, will sit out the campaign, the paper announced.

Mark Woodward and Assignment Editor Tim Allen, a cousin of the Democratic candidate for the Senate seat, U.S. Rep. Tim Allen “have recused themselves from dealing with any aspect of the paper’s coverage of the campaign for the duration of the race,” News Managing Editor Michael J. Dowd wrote in an article on the paper’s Web site.

The relations between the editors and the candidates became a subject of controversy among political bloggers in the last few weeks. In particular, they cited a recent article and editorial they claimed was critical of a Democratic operative videotaping Collins at campaign appearances, an increasingly common practice in races.

In a Labor Day weekend interview with E&P, Woodward dismissed the supposed conflict of interest as old news, saying he had never twisted the paper’s coverage of Collins and noting that the News in the past has consistently endorsed both the Republican senator and the Democratic congressman in their respective campaigns. Woodward’s wife, Bridget Woodward, has been a staff assistant in Collins’ Bangor office for the past decade, but had previously announced plans to retire at the end of September. Woodward interrupted a long career at the News to work briefly as Collins’ first communications director.

At the time the issue first emerged, however, Woodward added that he would seek the advice of other newsroom editors before deciding to take himself out of the campaign coverage.

“Although my wife and I have only the same stake in the outcome of this election as any other Maine voters, and nothing more, the appearance of having a conflict can be damaging to the integrity and credibility of the newspaper,” Woodward said in the News article. “Our newspaper’s role in the campaign is to report the news, not be part of it. For Tim and me to step out of the news process in this campaign is only common sense.”

“Mark’s and my decision not to be involved in the coverage of the Collins-Allen race is in the best interests of the BDN and its readers,” Assignment Editor Allen said. “It should remove any doubts about the fairness of the newspaper’s stories on the campaign.”

The newspaper said that five editors “with no ties to the candidates will coordinate coverage, editing and placement of stories and photographs related to the campaign. They also will handle wire stories and news dealing solely with the candidates emanating from the offices of the two members of Congress.”

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