“Yellow journalism was a style of newspaper reporting that emphasized sensationalism over facts.”
This is how the U.S. State Department Historian’s Office describes a period when Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst fiercely fought for advertising dollars.
With today’s desire for media to stay afloat, struggling for cash in an online world, we are reminded of Mark Twain’s quote, “It is not worthwhile to try to keep history from repeating itself, for man’s character will always make the preventing of the repetitions impossible.”
Since my name has been attached to efforts to either fill in perceived gaps in information or put more yellow over the bland, it is important to clear up any confusion.
Growing up in Maine in a smaller town as the son of a then-union labor electrician millworker and a working mother, I learned the importance of hard work.
I admired how small businesses contributed to the community, and I recognized that without businesses, large and small, there would be no jobs or livelihoods for families.
It seems simple, but I worry this fact is sometimes lost by those who perpetuate a belief that a prosperous society can exist without free enterprise.
Very late in 2011, a former state representative and Lewiston city councilor called me to ask for help on a job-creation project, a statewide campaign aimed at bringing a casino to downtown Lewiston. Although it had fluctuated, the unemployment rate in their area had been quite often higher than the state as a whole since 2009.
I was presented with several facts.
A substantial group of community leaders was leading the effort including businesspeople, medical doctors and other former legislators. The effort was bipartisan with leaders from both the Democrat and Republican parties in the area supporting it.
They had gathered signatures of tens of thousands of Maine voters to support it. The Maine House had already passed it, and the Senate opted for a statewide vote, which they received.
Sixty-six percent of voters within Lewiston voted in favor of moving the project forward by revitalizing a closed mill — which had been a center of economic opportunity. The City Council voted to endorse the project.
The project would bring thousands of jobs to the state of Maine and create revenue that could lower the tax burden on Maine seniors and families.
At no time was I an investor in this project or any affiliated entity. I was not involved in the creation of the concept. I did not recruit funders. I did not call them; they reached out to me.
My involvement came very late in the process with only a few weeks to disseminate the facts of a complicated issue and with a limited budget. It was a difficult task.
The television ad produced was succinct, explaining the legislation in as short a time as possible. Advice focused on jobs and the fact the local people of the area asked for the project’s creation. It was up to the public to accept or reject the concept as they saw fit. Operating as a vendor, my role was simply to present the facts, similar to a law firm representing a client.
I made it very clear the project needed to stand on its own. I would not take a role in publicly advocating for it. Under my legal agreement and operating systems, I ensured this was clearly understood. It was not to be attached to other projects on which I was working or any elected officials.
In addition, I did not oppose any other region of the state choosing to accept, or reject, similar concepts. There have been large numbers of jobs created by these industries in Maine.
Although many people disagree with their creation, Maine community and business leaders have successfully invested time and energy into making these job-creation concepts a reality around Maine.
I have performed public affairs work in more than 40 states around the nation.
Much of that work has centered on creating jobs and economic prosperity for people and hardworking families.
Taking arrows is nothing new; it has happened before and it will happen again. In this case they just came painted with a splash of yellow.
Brent Littlefield is a Republican political and media consultant who has represented several Maine clients, including members of Congress and governors as well as nonpartisan organizations. Littlefield is not the subject of any investigation or ethics complaint.