A year and a half ago, the New York Times wrote an article praising the architecture and design of a home on Vinalhaven. It seemed the kind of press islanders would enjoy, except for one problem: The home was built in complete violation of Vinalhaven’s building code, according to Phil Crossman, lifelong Vinalhaven resident.

Such articles no longer surprise Crossman, who has collected his own varied writings about island life in an amusing book, Away Happens. Vinalhaven is regularly featured in regional and national publications, with the Times doing a half dozen stories on the island in the last couple of years, he said. Most of these stories, he said, don’t get it right.

“Wonderfully inaccurate,” he said.

Maine island life has long been grist for the Times, Boston Globe, Downeast, Yankee and a host of travel magazines. To reporters, the islands offer the perfect combination: a unique location and a beautiful place to work. Most of the stories are variations of travel pieces, but a handful delve into local issues.

The pitfall of many of these stories, Crossman said, is that most reporters tend to generalize about island life and miss the intricacies of the communities where people live that life.

Vinalhaven is made up of “1,200 disparate individuals,” Crossman said. “Nothing is as simple as it appears out there.”

Sometimes, island story inaccuracies may stem from a lack of willing sources, said Donna Wiegle, a Swan’s Island freelance writer who publishes a subscription newsletter about the island. Recent island arrivals and summer residents often talk to a reporter more than longtime residents, she said, which could give the story an incomplete perspective.

“Sometimes, the islanders are reluctant to talk,” Wiegle said.

But Boston Globe columnist and Cheabugue Island resident Ellen Goodman believes surface impressions and generalizations can occur whenever a reporter writes about an unknown community; it doesn’t just happen with island stories.

“It’s very hard to get inside any community,” she said. “What it takes is time.”

And time is often in short supply for a reporter on deadline.

This phenomenon is not new. While examining 1930s news stories covering construction of the bridge connecting Deer Isle to the mainland, University of Maine PhD communications student Jessica Brophy found a similar trend.

“The farther away from the island you go, the way the island was talked about shifted,” Brophy said.

She said newspapers from away focused on the island solely as a “commodity” or a tourist destination, with more negative press surrounding cost and construction delays associated with the bridge.

“There was never any mention of the people unless to mention how quaint they were,” she said.

It’s a theme familiar to Brophy, who grew up in Deer Isle. While cleaning rooms for tourists, she said she and others often were treated as “moving figures in a postcard.”

“We were only there as part of the scenery,” she said.

It would be hard to determine if fluffy island news coverage creates superficial tourist views of islanders or the other way around, but Brophy believes such stories don’t help. Crossman even wonders if rosy island stories may cause people who aren’t suited for island life to move to such places.

At the same time, journalists from away may be needed to shed light on issues island journalists can’t touch. When she worked as a journalist in Deer Isle, Brophy had to tread carefully with some stories for fear of alienating too many neighbors, she said.

“You definitely had to pick and choose your battles,” she said. `There is something to be said for that outside voice.”

Wiegle agreed. To get along on Swan’s Island, she feels it’s best to avoid controversial stories.

“I’m very cautious about some of the stories I might cover,” she said.

Working Waterfront editor David Platt said he had encountered such situations up and down the coast over the years as well, and that he has made a practice of assigning outsiders to cover stories on islands in cases where “everyone’s on one side or another.” When it isn’t practical to assign an outside reporter, Platt said, “the next best thing is full disclosure.”

Outside journalists who don’t have to live with their interviewees may have a better shot at reporting on such topics, if they can find anyone willing to talk to them.

Ultimately, islanders can do little to stop non-island journalists from writing articles on island quaintness or praising local homes in code violation. The only tool available to combat such stories is the time-honored letter-to-the-editor. Crossman said several islanders wrote angry letters to the Times about the Vinalhaven home story; the paper printed a few.

In a way, journalists may be just another force of nature that islanders must grin and bear. Crossman said he doesn’t even think such stories are a problem; they provide endless hours of critiques and jokes for islanders to chew over during the slow winter months.

“We get a lot of mileage out of them,” he said. “We kind of look forward to the next one.”