News Feature

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Originally published in Castine Patriot, October 25, 2018 and Island Ad-Vantages, October 25, 2018 and The Weekly Packet, October 25, 2018
Candidates weigh in on the media, citizen involvement

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by Anne Berleant

An increasing amount of news and information may appear slanted to a specific political viewpoint, particularly in online sites and social media, but local candidates view the role of the news media in a traditional light—as a watchdog, providing information to the public, in an unbiased way, on candidates and the legislature.

“You want them to be the watchdog,” Rep. Richard Malaby, a Republican currently seeking the Senate District 7 seat, said, “doing their best to present as much information as possible, to keep the citizens informed.”

The press is “one part watch dog,” and “has the responsibility of publishing stories that the citizenship needs to know,” said Sarah Pebworth, a Democratic candidate for House District 133.

Sherm Hutchins, Republican candidate for House District 131, agrees on the media’s role but questions its success. “[It’s] being a watch dog on both sides, and they fail on 50 percent of that.”

Republican House District 133 candidate Nancy Colwell expects the media to stick to the facts. “The job of the press is to tell the truth and the facts, not with a left bias or a right bias [but] the facts and the facts only. I will base my own decision on the facts.”

Republican House District 134 candidate Philip Brady sees a changing media landscape. “Once upon a time you had a Republican and a Democratic newspaper in each community,” he said. “Recently, the news media has gotten itself in a whole lot of problems. … They write very one-sided material.”

In the many committee meetings held by state legislators, where amendments and new laws are proposed, “[reporters] get the real story,” said Kim Rosen, a Republican seeking re-election to the state senate for District 8. “I think that plays a big role.”

House District 131 Democratic candidate Nathalie Arruda concurred. “The news media is really critical in that function—bringing back [news] from committee meetings in Augusta. There’s a lot to sort through.”

And how do everyday citizens contribute to the democratic process? By being informed, candidates said.

“You can find just about anything you want about a candidate online,” Senate 8 Democratic candidate Beverly Uhlenhake said. “I applaud the League of Women Voters for getting involved and getting others involved.”

Voting may be “very entry level civic engagement,” as Arruda said, so what about when the election is over?

Citizens can “testify on issues that are important to them at [legislative] committee meetings,” District 134 Democratic candidate Genevieve McDonald said.

“Attend town meetings, and local informational meetings,” Hutchins advised.

And don’t forget to write your representative.

“I love getting emails from my constituents, to know how they feel,” Rosen said.