A nonprofit that aims to preserve local ownership for newspapers will buy 22 papers in Maine, including The Portland Press Herald and The Sun Journal of Lewiston.
The National Trust for Local News, a non-profit set to be launched in 2021, will buy the paper from Masthead Main, a private company that owns most independent media outlets in the state, including five of its six daily papers . Reade Browder, owner of the Masthead Main, indicated this year that he was find a sale,
Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro, chief executive of the National Trust for Local News, said Tuesday that the deal included five dailies and 17 weekly papers.
Ms. Hansen Shapiro said there was an opportunity for nonprofit ownership after Maine residents told her organization, Bill Nemitz, a longtime Portland Press Herald columnist. asked readers Donating in April to a non-profit organization to help preserve local journalism in the state.
“We believe strongly in the power of independent, nonpartisan local journalism to strengthen communities and build meaningful relationships,” said Ms. Hansen Shapiro. “We recognize the important role Masthead Maine and its iconic publications play in providing reliable, high-quality news to Maine’s communities.”
The deal is expected to be completed by the end of July, he added. He declined to disclose the sale price.
In addition to the Portland and Lewiston papers, the sale included The Kennebec Journal in Augusta, The Morning Sentinel in Waterville, and The Times Record in Brunswick. The state’s sixth daily newspaper, The Bangor Daily News, is owned by the Bangor Publishing Company.
“This may be the most defining moment in the history of Maine journalism,” Steve Greenlee, executive editor of the Portland Press Herald and The Maine Sunday Telegram, said in an email. “Our news reporting has always strived for the public good, and now our business model will align with that mission.”
Many local newspapers have closed over the past 20 years, as declining print circulation and declining advertising revenue left them hollow. Private equity firms and hedge funds have sold off distressed assets in recent years, cutting back even further on the often shrinking newsrooms. Hedge fund Alden Global Capital has become the second largest newspaper operator in the country.
Several non-profit news organizations have sprung up in the United States in recent years to try to address the crisis in local news and fill the void left by shuttered newspapers. These include such outlets as The Baltimore Banner and the Honolulu Civil Beat.
The National Trust for Local News, based in Lexington, Mass., was started with the goal of preserving local news outlets by helping them find ways to become sustainable. The organization owns 24 local newspapers in Colorado in association with The Colorado Sun. Its philanthropic funders include the Gates Family Foundation, the Google News Initiative, and the Knight Foundation.
The executive board of the News Guild of Maine, which represents about 200 workers at the newspapers, said in a statement that it was grateful Mr. option is selected.” Destroyed news organizations across the country.”
“We see the nonprofit model as a model that can better maintain the dual nature of journalism as both a consumer product and a public good,” the board said.