Down East 2013 ©
Competition for Village Soup readers: Reade Browers, publisher of the Free Press in Rockland, has confirmed to Mainebiz  that he’s planning to revive three of the former Village Soup weekly newspapers in the midcoast. Browers told the business publication that he was unmerging the Courier-Gazette in Rockland and the Camden Herald, as well as reinstating the Republican Journal name in Belfast. Browers said the three papers would hit the streets the first week in April. He said he’s rehiring most of the Soup staff, but is still searching for new offices for his expanded operation.
One big change Browers announced: The papers’ Web sites will no longer be free. “I think people need to be willing to pay 8 to 10 cents a day to get fresh news online from a well-staffed news room and sports room,” he told Mainebiz.
Offsetting some of that price hike will be a reduction in the cost of the three papers, which will sell for one dollar, rather that the previous dollar and a half.
Meanwhile, the Bangor Daily News has moved aggressively to fill the hole left by Soup’s demise. On March 22, the paper announced  that its Thursday editions in the area would now feature an expanded news section covering Knox and Waldo counties. The BDN is also shifting editorial page editor Tom Groening , a former reporter and editor of the Republican Journal, back to his old stomping grounds as chief of the expanded midcoast bureau, effective in mid-April. The move gives the Bangor paper four full-time reporters in the region.
No word yet on who’ll take Groening’s place on the editorial page.
Moving and shaking: There was some interesting journalism news buried in the March 21 report  in the Morning Sentinel on its parent company, MaineToday Media, and its continuing effort to sell its last remaining office building to the city of Waterville. According to the story by staff writer Amy Calder, MaineToday CEO Neil Heyside told the Waterville City Council the Sentinel is moving to an undetermined new location by early summer, regardless of whether the sale is completed.
Heyside is quoted as saying the move is necessary because the company is planning a major upgrade in its technology. He told Calder the change would allow for later deadlines, a bigger news hole, more current online content and more shared stories.
Presumably, these changes will also affect the other MTM papers, the Portland Press Herald and Kennebec Journal, both of which sold their old buildings and moved to new offices in the past couple of years.
Deep digging day: March 22 was a good day for investigative reporting in Maine. Two fine articles appeared from different sources that shook up entrenched bureaucrats and powerful politicians.
In the Press Herald, staff writer Kelley Bouchard (an obvious nominee for most improved journalist) revealed the unusual system  that allows the University of Southern Maine to give huge raises to top administrators while freezing wages for faculty and other staff.
Bouchard showed how a system that compares salaries for top aides to the college president to those in other parts of the country allows those employees to see their paychecks boosted by anywhere from five to forty-one percent. Her excellent reporting prompted the chancellor of the University of Maine System to immediately freeze all future pay adjustments  while the policy is reviewed.
Meanwhile, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting  was living up to its reputation for tenacious fact gathering. The center’s Naomi Schalit and John Christie uncovered the financial connections between powerful Democratic state Rep. John Martin of Eagle Lake and companies controlled by the Irving business empire in Canada.
Martin is sponsoring a controversial bill that would benefit one Irving-owned company by relaxing mining regulations, while he’s involved in a bankruptcy court case with another branch of the family operation to which he may owe as much as a quarter of a million dollars. Martin denies any quid pro quo, but the appearance of conflict of interest is cause enough for public concern.
First-rate work by both the center and Bouchard. And some kind of record for hard-hitting pieces from the Maine news media in a single day.
Doug rediscovered: Doug Rafferty , former anchor at WGME-TV in Portland, is the new head of the Division of Public Information and Education at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. Rafferty is best known for his long-running series of reports on frothy topics called “Doug’s Discoveries.” He began work at the station in 1991, and was most recently its information technology specialist.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com .