By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The Portland Press Herald and its 21 other papers are sold to a national nonprofit

Portland Press Herald mailbox

Photo (cc) 2022 by Jules Verne Times Two

The news about the news doesn’t get much better than this: The National Trust for Local News will acquire Maine’s Portland Press Herald and its affiliated four daily newspapers and 17 weeklies. The deal was announced earlier today. Although not all details of the sale are known, early indications are that the papers will remain for-profit entities under nonprofit ownership. The papers, known collectively as Masthead Maine, will continue to be managed by chief executive officer Lisa DeSisto.

According to Rachel Ohm of the Press Herald, the National Trust emerged as the buyer after the recently formed Maine Journalism Foundation, or MaineJF, fell short in its efforts to raise enough money to buy the papers on its own. MaineJF, also a nonprofit, then started working with the National Trust. Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro, the co-founder and CEO of the National Trust, told the Press Herald that the two organizations are continuing to work together, although it was unclear what ongoing role the foundation might have. The foundation, by the way, would have reorganized the papers as nonprofits; based on Ohm’s story, it sounds like that’s no longer on the table.

The papers were purchased in 2018 by Reade Brower, a printer who acquired them from billionaire owner Donald Sussman. Brower built a reputation as a solid steward who nevertheless was not averse to making cuts in order to stave off losses. Hansen Shapiro would not disclose what the National Trust paid, but it’s likely that Brower could have gotten more from a corporate chain looking to swoop in, gut newsrooms and squeeze out revenues. If that’s the case, then Brower deserves credit for putting his legacy above making every possible dollar.

The independently owned Bangor Daily News remains the only daily in the state that isn’t part of Masthead Maine.

The governance structure of the new ownership has yet to be announced, and maybe even the principals don’t quite know what it will look like yet. The National Trust is best known for rescuing a group of weekly and monthly papers in suburban Denver back in 2021, and now owns them in conjunction with The Colorado Sun, a well-regarded for-profit digital startup.

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2 Comments

  1. Stan Franzeen

    So nice to read good news for a change. Literally.

  2. Mortimer

    “Maximizing the value of the mission, rather than the financial gain, allows the mission to continue.” -Reade Brower

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