Down East 2013 ©
Past deadline: Brunswick Publishing, the company that owns the Times Record  afternoon daily paper, has failed to make its last two property tax payments to the town of Brunswick. As a result the town has placed a lien on BP’s property.
BP first missed a tax payment of $36,546.36 in October of 2009, according to town finance director John Eldridge. That figure represented half the publisher’s annual bill. Another bill for the same amount went unpaid in April 2010. On August 23, Brunswick placed a lien on BP’s land and building. Eldridge said if the full amount of the back taxes, interest, and fees – which as of Sept. 28 stood at $77,769.22 – is not paid by February 2012, the town could foreclose on the real estate. He said that’s unlikely to happen, because even if Brunswick Publishing can’t pay its back taxes by then, any mortgage holder would likely cover the cost to avoid losing its equity.
Nevertheless, Eldridge, who’s been Brunswick’s finance director for twenty-two years, said the lien is unusual. “It hasn’t happened before that I can recall,” he said.
Three years ago, BP received financial assistance when the state provided it with access to $7 million in funding from the tax-free bond market through the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME). That move became controversial when, in 2008, Brunswick Publishing’s new owner, Sample News Group, laid off ten employees .
A Sample official had previously told FAME the bond money would be used to, among other things, “maintain current headcount and payroll” at the paper.
Sample also owns the Journal Tribune in Biddeford and several Maine weekly papers.
Chris Miles, publisher and president of Brunswick Publishing, did not return a phone call seeking comment on the lien.
Mass. exodus: Former Portland Press Herald reporter/columnist Justin Ellis says he has a new job. Ellis posted the news on his blog last week  that he’d be leaving Maine to take a position at the Nieman Journalism Lab  at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass.
At his new gig, Ellis said he’d be studying the future of journalism, including the problems faced by non-profit news organizations and the role of metrics in deciding what to publish.
Ellis left the Press Herald voluntarily six months ago, accepting a buyout deal. He’d been at the paper since 2003.
October surprises: It’s that time of year when all newspapers and magazines that charge for copies and use the U.S. Postal Service to distribute them must publish statements of ownership and circulation. For papers that don’t subscribe to the Audit Bureau of Circulations  (and most Maine publications don’t), it’s the only opportunity we get to see how their readership is holding up.
Trouble is, most papers don’t post this information online, so it’s often tough to find. I’m keeping an eye out for as many as I can spot, but if you notice the form in your local weekly or daily, please send it to me at the e-mail address below. If you have access to the numbers from previous years, that also helps put this year’s figures in perspective.
The Original Irregular  in Kingfield was the first paper I saw to release its numbers, printing them in the Sept. 29 edition. The weekly reported its average circulation amounted to 1,848 copies per week over the last year. That’s a decline of 4.6 percent from the Irregular’s 2009 figure, when it sold an average of 1,938 copies each week. In 2008, circulation averaged 1,970.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org .