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JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

Reporter for conservative news wire in Maine fired for online racist comments



A reporter for a conservative group's online news service was fired allegedly for making racist comments, reported the Associated Press. Leif Parsell, the State House reporter for the Maine Heritage Policy Center's news service, "The Maine Wire," had a history of making racist comments online, according to the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, which added that Parsell denied he was a racist.

Parsell's comments allegedly advocating white supremacy came to light via the blogosphere, according to the Sun Journal. The blog The State of Maine initially published a post alleging Parsell "endorsed a white supremacist video, saying it is a good description of what he thinks of ethnic diversity in the United States."

The mainstream media were late to catch on to the scandal, illustrating the impact of the Internet on news media as the public can inform and be informed while bypassing traditional media, said the Portland Press Herald. "There is something poetic about the fact that the same system that allows this individual to express their opinion also allows somebody else to expose those opinions," said Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, as quoted by the Press Herald.

The Main Wire, which launched Dec. 13, claims to "provide a fair, engaging perspective on the public policy discussion in Maine" and to "serve as a motivating force for the rest of Maine’s press to drop the pro-government bias and get back to the business of reporting the news," although DownEast.com accused the site of being "short on scoops and long on ideology." The news wire is part of a trend of state-based news services set up by conservative think tanks that "do reporting without explicitly saying they offer a conservative slant on the news," the Press Herald added.

The Sun Journal noted that none of the Maine Wire's stories have been picked up for publication by Maine's daily newspapers.

Writing for DownEast.com, Al Diamon criticized the Maine Wire for not reporting on the firing or taking down Parsell's stories, saying that the failure to do so "damaged the already questionable credibility of its news site and did nothing to mitigate that damage...As for Parsell, it’s important to remember that he wasn’t canned for exercising his First Amendment rights. He was dismissed for failing to understand the ethics of his profession."



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