A national nonprofit plans to take over ownership of five of Maine’s six daily newspapers as part of a landmark deal that could help preserve local news across the state.

The National Trust for Local News has entered into an agreement to purchase the Sun Journal and all of the other assets of Masthead Maine, with a closing date in late July, Reade Brower, owner of Masthead Maine, and Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro, chief executive officer and co-founder of the trust, said in interviews Monday.

“This is the most independent route I think I could have taken that maintains both the independence of the press and continuity for staff and readers,” Brower said. “I believe they want to continue to run this as a sustainable business, which I like, and I don’t believe they will try and drain resources, which I like.”

Neither Brower nor Hansen Shapiro would disclose the sale price, saying the terms of the deal are confidential.


Many details of what the sale will mean for day-to-day operations are still being worked out, though Hansen Shapiro said the papers will continue to be managed by Masthead Maine Chief Executive Officer Lisa DeSisto and her staff.


“Our overall framework and set of values is that local news is really critical to communities being able to hang together and function well,” Hansen Shapiro said.

“We have an overall set of principles and strategies for sustainability and for enhancing the quality of local service, but all the details of what that means for the papers is really something we’re going to be working closely with Lisa on and working with community members on.”

“Becoming part of an organization whose sole purpose is to preserve local journalism is absolutely amazing. Transitioning to a nonprofit will set us up for long term sustainability and gives us the opportunity to invest in our people and our publications,” said Jody Jalbert, publisher of the Sun Journal and Western Maine Weeklies. “This is by far the best possible outcome for the communities served by the Sun Journal and our six western Maine weekly newspapers. The National Trust for Local News will be a catalyst for Maine journalism, and we are excited to be part of it.”

DeSisto said Monday that she is pleased with the sale to the National Trust. “I couldn’t imagine a better outcome for the future of our newspapers, our employees and the state of journalism in Maine,” she said.

Masthead Maine has about 400 full- and part-time employees. DeSisto said employee benefits will continue unchanged through the end of the year while more details of what the sale will mean are worked out.

“If you look at what they’re all about, which is conserving, sustaining, transforming local news, that says to me that our commitment, especially on the hyper-local level, will be enhanced,” DeSisto said.


The trust has also said it will recognize the four labor unions representing Masthead employees and will honor their contracts. Union leaders said Monday they were trying to learn more about the trust since news of the sale broke Monday afternoon.

“This move to a nonprofit organization is exciting news for our readers and our employees because it will strengthen and stabilize our ability to produce important local news in communities,” said Judith Meyer, executive editor of the Sun Journal, Western Maine Weeklies, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. “I am proud of our journalism, from features about local people to investigations and analysis about important community issues, because the work we do in our newsrooms helps our readers make important decisions for their families about their lives and I’m thrilled to see that work will continue with the National Trust for Local News.”


The trust, founded in 2021, is a nonprofit whose mission is providing long-term sustainability for local news sources. It also owns a chain of 24 community newspapers in suburban Denver, Colorado.

The agreement to buy the Maine newspapers comes during a challenging economic landscape for newspapers nationwide.

A study last year from Northwestern University’s journalism school found that more than 2,500 newspapers in the United States have gone out of business since 2005, including 360 since right before the pandemic in early 2020.


In places where papers have survived, many have made deep staff cuts.

Some newspapers – particularly larger dailies such as The New York Times and The Washington Post – have been able to counter the loss of advertising revenue through a robust surge in digital subscriptions.

Smaller newspapers have moved toward that model as well, but their markets are more limited.

Brower said Monday that there were “multiple other avenues I could have pursued” for the sale of his newspapers but declined to say what other entities specifically may have made offers.

As part of the National Trust, Hansen Shapiro said the newspapers will continue to operate as a business with revenue coming from ads and subscriptions. But the nonprofit ownership will also make the papers eligible for philanthropic support.

“It adds the potential for a different kind of investment and support than in other formats, which is a really important part of long-term sustainability,” she said.



Soon after Brower said in late March that he was exploring selling his media holdings, retired Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz announced the formation of the Maine Journalism Foundation, a new nonprofit organization dedicated to sustaining local news in Maine.

Nemitz is president of the foundation, which also includes Bill Burke, former Weather Channel companies CEO and Portland Sea Dogs co-owner, and Emily Barr, an Associated Press board member who recently retired to Cape Elizabeth, on its board of directors.

Nemitz said Monday that he was “absolutely thrilled” about Brower’s sale to the National Trust for Local News.

He would not say how much money the foundation raised, citing a non-disclosure agreement, but said the foundation received “substantial donations, large and small, from people all over Maine.”

Still, he said the foundation realized in late May that it would likely come up short in its bid to purchase the papers.


“We were in the process of rethinking our mission and looking for other options when we were put in contact with the National Trust and very quickly started working with them,” Nemitz said.

The foundation is continuing to work with the National Trust, and Hansen Shapiro said more details are to come as to what the long-term relationship between the two will be.

“This is a huge celebration for them as well and they’ve been right by our side since the moment we got into this,” Hansen Shapiro said. “We’re super grateful for their collaboration and support.”

In the meantime, the foundation said in an email to supporters Monday that their donations will be used to help fund the sale of Masthead Maine to the National Trust.

“More details will be forthcoming in the days and weeks ahead on the operating structure of the new nonprofit entity,” the email said. “Until then, rest assured that the future for local news in Maine has never been brighter.”

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