Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Boss of Maine's largest newspaper chain: "scoops don't matter"

The owner/editor/publisher of Maine's largest newspaper chain, Richard Connor, probably saved the flagship Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram from bankruptcy after purchasing it last year. But can he restore the newsgathering capabilities of this once-decent paper?

As you'll read in my piece in the new issue of Down East, the outlook doesn't look good.

In an hour-long interview, Mr. Connor made it clear that he doesn't see newsgathering or local news as central to his papers' missions. Scoops, he says, don't matter anymore. The papers "don't sell news." Their front section's goal is to summarize the previous day's national and global events -- in practice, by printing wire service stories -- rather than own the local and statewide news of the day.

Connor was charming, frank, and generous with his time, but he was far better at saying what his news philosophy isn't than what it is. The over-arching mission would appear to be to "connect" with the community rather than to aggressively cover it, a major departure for a newspaper magnate.

Whether this is the future of the news business, it would seem an abandonment of the traditional function of the daily paper in a democratic republic: giving citizens the information they need to make informed decisions, especially about the officials, agencies, and interests shaping laws, decisions, policies, and events. If the Press Herald and its sister papers no longer see this as their prime directive, I'd argue that something else needs to step up to the plate here in Maine, and quickly.


  1. Why am I not surprised. This is the route all "official" media seems to be taking. The reason is simple. It's cheaper.

    Quality programing to pricy? Do "reality" shows. Paying reporters too costly? Just grab the AP wire stuff.

    We are loosing fast, people! It's way past time for us to stop eating the grass and start looking around.

  2. Why does it not surprise me to see one media giant (Down East) with myriad problems of it's own (staff reductions, aging subscribers, plummeting circulation, and decreasing ad revenue) attack one of their few remaining Media competitors (Portland Press Herald)? Colin seems so bored between "award winning" (please) story telling, and so anxious to keep his bread and butter assignments coming from Down East, that he will set integrity aside to stoop to the lowest of levels by attacking a competitor. I think I may have counted 6 or more recent covers of Down East posted on this blog with Colin's sad, sophomoric, self-promotion attached. I hope that Colin, if he insists on being the grim reaper of Maine Media (and Maine in general), would at least take the time to tell us what despair is being meted out at the Rockport offices of his employer Down East Enterprises. I recall a recent announcement of a 30% reduction in staff including some venerable Maine writers that are sorely missed. And, there appears to be some trouble in their sales department with the recent departures/terminations of several sales people including their sales manager. Could it be that they are not able to deliver the content, circulation and excitement that Maine advertisers can afford to buy into? I'll wait, but not hold my breath, for the titilating expose by Colin.

  3. @Anonymous of 25 July: While it's fascinating that you consider a monthly (and decidedly un-newsy) magazine to be a "competitor" to the state's largest newspaper chain, I suppose it's a sign of the state of Maine Today Media.(Also, I'm pretty sure Al Diamon trademarked the term "grim reaper of Maine Media," and he reported on the magazine's cutbacks a year or so ago.)

    The state of our major newspapers is a vital and worthy topic of discussion, and I will continue to write stories about it and promote them here at World Wide Woodard.