Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Maine newspapers: a (full-text) update

Blogospheric rumor has it that Maine's largest newspaper chain, Blethen Maine Newspapers, really is about to be sold to the investment group led by Richard Connor of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. The chain, which includes the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the [Augusta] Kennebec Journal, and the [Waterville] Morning Sentinel, has been in a financial and editorial crisis for many years, as discussed in my recent story in Port City Life magazine.
The good people at Port City Life have kindly given permission for me to post the story here. The piece explores how Maine's daily newspapers are weathering the ongoing crisis in the industry, focusing on their success in delivering their core product: quality news coverage. It features input from past editors and publishers of the Press Herald, the executive editor of the Bangor Daily News, the editor of the Lewiston Sun Journal's Forecaster weeklies, and other veterans of Maine's newspaper scene.

Blethen Maine's owner, The Seattle Times Company, declined to make any of its officials and senior editors available for an interview, including then-Blethen Maine publisher Charles Cochrane and Press Herald editor Jeannine Guttman. After the piece came out, however, the executive editor of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, Eric Conrad, wrote Port City Life to draw attention to the merits of his statehouse correspondent's coverage and to dispute that his two papers have suffered steep circulation declines.

If the sale has indeed been finalized, Maine's largest newspapers will be run by Mr. Connor, who has said he is organizing financing of the deal from HM Capital Partners of Dallas, Texas. He recently claimed that his partners in the deal, Bob Baldacci (the governor's brother), Michael Liberty (a controversial Maine developer), and William Cohen (the former US Senator and Defense Secretary), will heretofore have minor roles.

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