22 newspapers in Maine, including The Portland Press Herald and The Sun Journal of Lewiston, will be purchased by a non-profit organization that wants to keep local control of media.
The New Ownership
The majority of the state’s independent media properties, including five of its six daily papers, are owned by a private firm called Masthead Maine. The National Trust for Local News, a non-profit organization founded in 2021, will purchase those publications from Masthead Maine. Reade Brower, the owner of Masthead Maine, has hinted this year that he was considering a sale.
According to Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro, the chief executive of the National Trust for Local News, the sale comprises 17 weekly periodicals and five daily newspapers. Maine people had informed her organization that there was a chance, according to Ms. Hansen Shapiro.
After Bill Nemitz, a longtime Portland Press Herald writer, requested readers to pay in April to support a non-profit organization that would assist maintain local journalism in the state, Ms. Hansen Shapiro said Maine residents had informed her organization that there was an opportunity for charity ownership.
“We firmly believe in the power of independent, nonpartisan local journalism to strengthen communities and forge meaningful connections,” Ms. Hansen Shapiro declared. “We recognize the critical role Masthead Maine and its prestigious publications play in providing the people of Maine with trustworthy, top-notch news.”
By the end of July, she said, the agreement would be finalized. She chose not to disclose the purchase price.
Other Details of the Deal
The deal also includes The Kennebec Journal in Augusta, The Morning Sentinel in Waterville, and The Times Record in Brunswick in addition to the newspapers in Portland and Lewiston. The Bangor Daily News, the sixth daily newspaper in the state, is still owned by the Bangor Publishing Company.
The executive editor of The Portland Press Herald and The Maine Sunday Telegram, Steve Greenlee, wrote in an email that this “might be the most significant moment in the history of Maine journalism.” Our news report has always aimed to promote the common good, and going forward, our business strategy will support that goal.
In the last 20 years, a lot of neighborhood newspapers have folded because of sluggish advertising revenue and declining print distribution. In recent years, private equity groups and hedge funders have purchased distressed properties, frequently slashing the already-shrinking newsrooms even further. Alden Global Capital, an investment company, is now the second-largest newspaper operator in the nation.
Addressing the Local News Issues
In recent years, a number of non-profit organizations (news) have sprouted up all over the United States in an effort to address the local news problem and fill the gap left by shuttered newspapers. These include publications like Honolulu Civil Beat and The Baltimore Banner.
The Denver-based National Trust for Local News was founded with the intention of protecting local news organizations by assisting them in finding viable business models. Through a partnership with The Colorado Sun, the organization owns 24 neighborhood newspapers in Colorado. The Gates Family Foundation, the Google News Initiative, and the Knight Foundation are among its charitable backers.
In a statement, the executive board of the News Guild of Maine, the labor organization that represents nearly 200 employees at the papers, expressed gratitude to Mr. Brower for choosing to “pursue a non-profit organization model rather than sell his companies to the bad actors that have decimated news organizations across the country.”
“We see the non-profit organization model as one that can better sustain journalism’s dual nature as both a consumer product and a public good,” the board said.