LEWISTON — James Costello Sr., president and publisher of Sun Media Group, is one of four Mainers who will be inducted into the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame this year.

The other inductees are Robert K. Diebold, former managing editor of the Penobscot Times; the late Clayton LaVerdiere, a 50-year employee of the Waterville Morning Sentinel; and the late John K. Murphy, a longtime employee of the Kennebec Journal and former executive editor of the Portland Press Herald.

“It is an honor to be recognized by the Maine Press Association,” Costello said, “and I feel fortunate to be involved in our five-generation family business that has been able to be successful through the many transformations in the newspaper business.”

Costello began working at Sun Media in 1952 as a member of the press crew and in the composing room. He was named production manager in 1960, general manager in 1979, publisher and treasurer in 1983 and has been president and publisher since 1993. Sun Media Group includes the Sun Journal, Employment Times, Celsius
Technology Group and 10 weekly newspapers in Oxford, Cumberland,
Franklin and Penobscot counties.

According to Sun Journal Executive Editor Rex Rhoades, Costello was “instrumental in computerizing the entire company in all areas, from the business office to advertising to circulation and the newsroom. He directed and managed two press conversions, three mailroom conversions and several redesigns of the paper during his tenure.”

Costello was the third generation of his family to operate the newspaper. He launched Lewiston’s Sunday paper in 1983, the second in the state at that time and the first Maine newspaper to offer color photography, graphics and advertisements. In 1989, he merged The Evening Journal and The Daily Sun into the morning Sun Journal. He has spent the past 15 years planning and building strategies to ensure a smooth transition of the family business to the next generation while evolving the Sun Journal into a multimedia corporation.

The Sun Journal has continued to be a leader in local news and, over the years, has received numerous awards for writing, investigative reporting, editorials, photography, graphic design and advertising. Last year, the Sun Journal was named the best daily and weekend paper in Maine, and has been named one of the best-designed newspapers in the country by the Society of News Design.

Costello is a past president and board member of Tri-County Mental Health, St. Mary’s Regional Hospital, Marcotte Nursing Home and Tri-County Health Planning Board. An Army veteran of the European Theater from 1956 to 1957, he has served on the boards of Northeast Bank, Northern Utilities Inc. and the Maine Criminal Justice Planning and Assistance Agency. He is also a past president of the Maine Daily Newspaper Publishers Association and the New England Newspaper Association.

According to an MPA statement, Diebold earned a record 47 MPA awards and honorable mentions during his 13 years with the weekly Penobscot Times, including 13 first-place awards. He is probably best-known for his three-and-a-half-year quest to remedy an injustice against an Old Town police officer who was accused of child molestation, according to the MPA.

LaVerdiere was known as “Mr. Waterville” during his years with the Sentinel, writing more than 20,000 stories and 3,000 columns. According to Special Projects Director Glenn Turner, LaVerdiere’s columns “are a treasure of information and knowledge about the city of Waterville, written by a man who knew its streets, its history and its people.”

Murphy started with the Augusta newspaper when writing was done on typewriters and “all-night poker sessions were the norm,” according to co-worker Kim Clifford. A past president of the Portland Newspaper Guild, Murphy won Associated Press awards for his writing, but his real contribution was as an editor, earning him legendary status at the papers.

Costello, Diebold, LaVerdiere and Murphy will be inducted into the Hall of Fame during the MPA’s annual conference Oct. 16 and 17 in Northport.

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