When the national media come to Maine

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NBC News correspondents Sheinelle Jones (left) and Dylan Dreyer enjoy a lobster feast this week at Beal’s Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor, which opens for the season on May 20.

It’s been a poorly concealed secret for years: National news media likes to visit Acadia National Park and Mount Desert Island in the summertime.

Who doesn’t, right? The park’s scenic appeal, and that of coastal Maine in general, is why millions of people travel from out of state (and often from other countries) to visit Maine each summer.

Google “New York Times” and “Mount Desert Island” and you’ll get several stories that inevitably were filed in either July or August. Television networks tend to follow suit, their staffers wearing flip-flops (as opposed to Muck boots) when they step out of their SUVs along Maine’s rocky shore.

The biggest media scrum the park has ever experienced is when President Obama and his family visited Acadia in July 2010. Dozens of media outlets — not to mention scores of security personnel and government staffers and thousands of citizens hoping to catch a glimpse of the First Family — descended on MDI for what I remember as a fairly hectic week.

The latest excuse for sending correspondents to the country’s northeast corner (and, yes, it’s a good one) is the 100th anniversary of the creation of the park, and of the National Park Service, in 1916. On Thursday, a crew from NBC’s TODAY show broadcast from Acadia as part of a week-long tour of national parks, monuments and recreational areas across the country.

Nobody’s perfect, obviously, but there are a few things I want to point out about the segment that aired today on NBC.

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First of all: Is that Mount Katahdin shown in this screenshot?! The peak is not identified in the clip, but it sure looks like it. Katahdin and the surrounding landscape may be among some of the most stunning scenery Maine has to offer, but it is definitely not part of Acadia. It is the focal point of Baxter State Park, more than 130 miles away.

There’s been a lot of discussion about whether the federal government might establish a national monument or park immediately east of Baxter, on 87,000 acres of land owned by Elliotsville Plantation, but Acadia’s reach will never extend that far.

Secondly, NBC meteoroligist Dylan Dreyer declares during the segment that the summit of Cadillac is “the first spot in the country where the sun hits the horizon.” This is true — but only for part of the year, and not for the part during which Dreyer said it.

I dove into this topic in 2011, after realizing that multiple places in Maine claim to be the first place in the U.S. to see the sun each morning. What I found out is that Cadillac Mountain gets the sun’s rays first between early October and early March, when the tilt of the Earth moves the sun further into the southern sky, but that during the spring and summer the more northerly arc of the sun gives the distinction to Mars Hill in northern Maine.

That’s one reason the CBS program Sunday Morning deserves some praise for its Acadia coverage, the most recent portion of which aired this past winter. Not only do they correctly identify the time of year when the sun’s rays hit Cadillac Mountain first, but they also showed up <gasp!> in January, to be among the first Americans to see the sun on New Year’s Day. Kudos to them for braving the cold and showing an aspect of Maine that relatively few tourists ever see.

Here’s the CBS clip, which was broadcast in February:

 

A few more observations on the TODAY show clip from this morning:

Dreyer and fellow NBC correspondent Sheinelle Jones are shown dining at two restaurants that won’t be open to the public for another week. The Jordan Pond House in Acadia opens May 18, and Beal’s Lobster Pier in Southwest Harbor opens on May 20, so don’t show up too early.

Also, though Dreyer describes Acadia as being located on “Maine’s central coast,” that’s a little off the mark. Most Mainers think of the state’s midcoast area as being between Brunswick and Belfast, not on the eastern side of Penobscot Bay.

The thing that caught my attention the most, however (and which I have re-watched a few times to make sure I am not missing anything) is the two beers that sit untouched in the middle of the table during Dreyer and Jones’ lobster feast.

Really? Not even a sip? That seems highly unlikely to me. Maybe it’s because, technically, they were on the clock, or perhaps they prefer water to beer — either of which is understandable. But, still, seeing two beers go ignored in the midst of a tabletop lobster feast is like seeing an unopened pint of vanilla ice cream next to a slice of warm blueberry pie, or a still-wrapped stick of butter next to a platter of steaming corn on the cob.

To be fair, NBC was in town for the park’s centennial, not to delve into the extensive local food and beer choices that Maine has to offer. If this Fortune article is any indication, those topics may prove to be another excuse for the national media to return to Maine before too long.

Bill Trotter

About Bill Trotter

A news reporter in coastal Maine for 20 years, Bill Trotter keeps track of how the Atlantic Ocean and the state's iconic coast shape the lives, lifestyles and livelihoods of coastal Maine residents and visitors. A resident of Ellsworth, Bill covers Acadia National Park, Hancock County, fisheries, marine-related topics and more for the BDN. Follow him on Twitter at @billtrotter.