Media Mutt

Big Price Hikes for Maine Newspapers

by Al Diamon

No comment: In the past, it’s been traditional for newspapers to make some sort of mention in their pages when they raise prices. Most of these attempts at explaining the hike were sort of lame, claiming rising costs mandated the move, without even hinting that declining profits or the owners’ inept business practices might have something to do with the changes. So, I suppose it’s no great loss that the MaineToday Media papers seem to have dispensed with the practice, leaving it to convenience store clerks to deal with explanations and customer feedback.

MaineToday quietly jacked the cover prices on all its Sunday papers on June 9. The Morning Sentinel in Waterville and the Kennebec Journal in Augusta went from $1.50 a copy to $2.00, a sizable increase for papers with news holes no bigger than the weekday editions that cost a buck. The Maine Sunday Telegram, based in Portland, hiked its price from $1.75 to $2.00 in southern and coastal Maine, but hammered the rest of the state with a jump from two bucks to three.

Meanwhile, the Bangor Daily News will start charging $1.25 for its weekday paper (up from $1) on June 17. Industry sources say MaineToday will follow suit shortly thereafter. Both companies are hoping paid subscriptions to their online editions will more than offset the loss of print circulation caused by the higher costs.

Cheaper competition: In much of York County, there’ll soon be an alternative to paying more for a Sunday paper. Starting June 16, the Journal Tribune in Biddeford will be distributing a free Sunday edition to every household in its hometown, as well as Saco and Old Orchard Beach, according to a June 8 announcement by publisher Jim Freeland.

Sources say the paper will remain free for at least two years, but the plan is to charge for it after that.

Freeland said the new publication will be “laser focused on local news,” with lots of contributions from “members of our community.” It will also include “your guide to the best values available at Hannaford  grocery stores, not to mention other shopping values and coupons,” which makes it seem more like a shopper than a real paper. So, maybe free is the right price.

More questions than answers: The weekly Advertiser Democrat in Norway left several readers in confusion with a June 6 story by Peter L. McGuire about anonymous flyers mailed to residents of Paris.

The flyers urged voters to reject a deal between the town and the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office.

The U.S. Postal Service said the flyers didn’t need disclaimers stating who paid for them because they weren’t “political mail.” But the story doesn’t clearly explain why not or what would constitute political mail. The post office did decide at some point that the flyers needed return addresses, because some people thought they came from the town. But it’s also not clear how town officials learned of the flyers before they were mailed. Or maybe they didn’t. Or maybe there were two mailings. I couldn’t tell. And if there were return addresses, why didn’t the reporter contact the senders for comment?

Sloppy work.

Welcome to Purtland, part two: Portland Press Herald summer intern Karen Antonacci continues to struggle with geography and names. After misspelling the name of DiMillo’s landmark restaurant on the Portland waterfront in her initial article last week, Antonacci wandered far from the facts in her second story on June 10.

Her piece about a push to rename three streets between Valley and St. John streets in Portland is riddled with errors, many (but not all) of which an editor caught before they got into print, but the mistakes remained in the online edition as of mid-morning. Some examples:

Antonacci claims the streets are located “near the west end of Congress Street.” In fact, Congress continues for several miles further west.

She says the area is near the since-demolished “Union Train Station.” It’s name was simply Union Station.

She interviews someone who manages “La Villa Pizza,” which is said to be near one of the streets being considered for a new name. It appears the reporter did some renaming of her own, because there’s no listing for any such business in the city, although Pizza Villa on Congress Street is close by. (The editor let that last blunder slip into print.)

“Hedy” stuff: Headline on two election dispatch stories on the Portland Press Herald’s website, June 8:

“Hedy line goa opnnay goay herdy hewdey flady”

Herdy, indeed, although I wouldn’t go so far as to call it flady.

Al Diamon can be emailed at

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