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Press Herald News
Press Herald home pagenewssportsbusinessviewpointsobituariesclassifiedspecial reportspersonalsarchive

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Readers, news staffers agree: Crisis in church is top story

Copyright 2002 Blethen Maine Newspapers Inc.

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READERS' PICKS


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READERS' PICKS
Here is how the readers of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram ranked the top 10 stories in Maine:

1. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland announces that it will begin disclosing the names of priests who were accused of sexually abusing minors. Subsequently, prosecutors say allegations have been made against 51 Maine priests, including 33 who are alive but inactive.

2. Lewiston mayor starts a controversy when he asks the Somali community to discourage friends and relatives from moving to that city.

3. Chebeague Islanders, upset over rising property taxes, warn of a tax relief referendum.

4. New England Patriots win the Super Bowl.

5. A Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram series explores how Maine treats its mentally ill children, finding the state lacks facilities for troubled kids and ships many to other states for care.

6. A dry spell that started in 2001 becomes a deep and relentless drought, among the worst ever recorded in Maine.

7. Maine schools receive new Apple iBook computers as Gov. King's plan for seventh-graders rolls out.

8. The number of drug-related overdose deaths in Portland increases dramatically from 2001. Methadone clinics come under fire as a result of the increase in deaths.

9. Voters elect John Baldacci as governor, re-elect Susan Collins to the U.S. Senate.

10. Crash in Allagash kills 14 migrant forest workers.

STAFF PICKS

Here is how the news staff at the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram ranked the top 10 stories in Maine.

1. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland announces that it will begin disclosing the names of priests who were accused of sexually abusing minors. Subsequently, prosecutors say allegations have been made against 51 Maine priests, including 33 who are alive but inactive.

2. Lewiston mayor starts a controversy when he asks the Somali community to discourage friends and relatives from moving to that city.

3. Crash in Allagash kills 14 migrant forest workers.

4. Gov. Angus King unveils $272 million in budget adjustments that would cut millions to help cover a $248 million shortfall in the two-year budget that the Legislature passed last year. In subsequent months, the deficit continues to grow.

5. The Penobscot Nation and the Passamaquoddy Tribe announce plans for a casino in southern Maine.

6. New England Patriots win the Super Bowl.

7. A federal judge rules that the National Marine Fisheries Service is violating the law by not using aggressive new rules to stop overfishing and accidental catches of New England groundfish. The judge later imposes harsh new fishing standards, then withdraws her order, putting in place a compromise reached by environmental advocates, fishermen and state and federal government agencies.

8. The number of drug-related overdose deaths in Portland has increased to 28 this year from 16 in 2001. Methadone clinics come under fire as a result of the increase in deaths.

9. Maine schools receive new Apple iBook computers as Gov. King's plan for seventh-graders rolls out.

10. Voters elect John Baldacci as governor, re-elect Susan Collins to the U.S. Senate.

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To top of story

While most readers agreed that 2002 was not a "big" news year compared to the events that shocked the nation in 2001, picking the top stories in Maine for this year remained a daunting task.

"There were really a lot of things vying for our sympathy and attention this year," said Susan Thompson of Scarborough.

Readers and staff of the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram agreed that this year's top story was the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, which involved the Portland Diocese.

Finishing at a close second in the reader survey was the controversy in Lewiston that occurred after the mayor asked the Somali community to discourage more immigration to the city because of the strain on city resources.

John Maddaus, a professor at the University of Southern Maine, called that story the most important of the year.

"I think it's a major issue that people in Maine have to deal with now that we're becoming a more diverse state than we've ever been," he said.

Rounding out the top stories for readers were Chebeague Islanders' warning of a tax revolt; the Patriots victory in the Super Bowl; and the newspaper's series on the state's lack of facilities and services for mentally ill children.

Readers responded to the survey either via the Internet or by mailing in ballots that ran in the newspaper. They ranked 10 stories from a list of 32.

Their choices were largely similar to picks made by editors and reporters, although the journalists' top five was rounded out by the Allagash crash that killed 14 migrant workers; Gov. Angus King's plan to cover a $248 million shortfall in the budget; and the proposal to bring a Foxwoods-style casino to Maine - a story that did not make the top 10 for readers.

Readers and staff also disagreed on the importance of Maine's worst-ever drought and the establishment of new groundfishing regulations.

While some readers tried to pick stories they thought affected the most people, such as the drought or the plight of mentally ill children, other readers said they picked those stories that meant the most to them.

This year's voting was especially personal for David O'Brion of Falmouth. O'Brion's nephew, Nathaniel MacConnell, was one of the three teenagers killed in a drunken driving accident on Tukey's Bridge.

"That is the only story of the year right now, probably for the next couple of years, for us," he said.

Kris Larson, a blueberry raker and photographer living in East Machias, said he was touched by the coverage of the Allagash crash because he has worked with many migrant workers.

"I just felt that was the story," he said. "(The migrant workers) are the salt of the earth and I have a lot of respect for them."

At least one voter said he felt the Patriots' Super Bowl win was the story of the year.

"People in New England have been waiting for something like that for a long time," said Stuart Dexter, an accountant in Orono.

Dexter said that he did vote for the more "important issues," such as the looming budget crisis and the priest abuse scandals, but the Patriots had the virtue of doing something few news stories can do.

"It made me feel pretty proud to live in New England," he said.

Staff Writer Jen Fish can be contacted at 282-8229 or at:

jfish@pressherald.com


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