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Raising The Anchor

Bob Anderson is not a trained journalist. He is a fisherman by trade. But for 22 years he successfully published a monthly newspaper in Harpswell, Maine, called the Anchor.

Sadly though, after the pandemic arrived and most happenings in this fishing community on Casco Bay were put on hold, Anderson decided to stop the presses. That was in October. But by the end of 2020, a group of residents felt the loss of their community news source was too big of a blow, and started working on a way to bring the Anchor back to life.

One of those residents is Doug Warren, who grew up about 12 miles away in Brunswick, Maine, went to Brunswick High School and now lives on the property his family has owned on Orr’s Island for more than 100 years. 

Oh, and Warren also just happens to be an accomplished 32-year veteran of the newspaper business, spending time at The Portland Press Herald, The Miami Herald and The Boston Globe (where he had the pleasure of taking Marty Baron to his very first Red Sox game) before eventually moving back to Harpswell.

In a short amount of time, Warren and this group of concerned residents were able to put together enough funds to purchase from Anderson the name, archives, website and other pieces of the now-defunct Anchor, and are planning to revive it as a nonprofit publication by the end of this month.
Potential mock-up of the new Harpswell Anchor front page.
Anderson’s Anchor basically was a one-man operation for a few decades. He had an office assistant and a few freelancers at any given time, but he made it all happen, according to Warren.

“Untrained as he might have been, he kept the focus on the nature of the fishing community that Harpswell is, and made an effort to publish what he considered to be the positive stories of the community,” Warren said. “There were a lot of nice features, and it was fairly good quality journalism, I would say.”

Anderson didn’t solicit ads. People brought them to him. But as most rural journalists know, it is hard to run a business that way. That’s where folks like Janice Thompson come in to play for the new Anchor. She’s a Harpswell Center resident and career fundraising professional.

With help from Thompson and more than a dozen other residents, enough funds were raised — about $30,000 — to get the paper back in business, this time as a 501(c)3. Well, it eventually will have its own nonprofit status. But until the application is approved, the Holbrook Community Foundation agreed to be its fiscal sponsor, meaning the Anchor can accept tax-deductible gifts immediately.

Going forward, the group plans to fund the publication through a combination of advertising, donations and grants.

The new group sent a survey to every household in the area asking for feedback on a number of subjects, including what types of stories they want to see the Anchor cover going forward. They got about 600 surveys back so far, which was a pleasant surprise.

“People have strong opinions on what they want to see,” Warren said.

One thing was certain — residents wanted the print version of the publication to continue. It makes sense. This is a fishing community and a retirement community and, as Warren said, it is the “oldest median age town in the oldest median age state.”

But the new Anchor also will have a new website, and it will contain a lot more timely news and information than the previous version, which only housed archives of the print edition. 

To do that, a staff will be needed. The first step is hiring an editor. If you’re interested, the job description is online and the pay will be between $35,000 and $50,000.

Until a full-time editor is hired, Warren will fill the void. He hopes someone will be hired within the next month or two.

“I want to get the job filled as quickly as possible,” he said. “Hopefully soon I’ll go back to my big-picture advisory board role that I’m so much more comfortable in now.”

In the early days of the Anchor, Anderson had a clamming license, and he would head out and dig clams in order to get money to pay for the paper.

The new owners dug into their own pockets in order to get the Anchor up and running again, and hope the community will continue to dig into theirs to keep it going for years to come.

“The community is excited about it and interested,” Warren said. “Hopefully they’ll support it financially.”

A Really Big Deal

I'm sure you've seen the news by now, but the purchase of Colorado Community Media, which owns two dozen newspapers in the state, by the newly-formed Colorado News Conservancy is a really big deal.

I won't go into all of the details (you can read all about it here, here and here), but let me just say that I'm so glad that the National Trust for Local News was able to make this happen. This is a huge step for the Trust, and shows that there is, indeed, an alternative to corporate chains swallowing newspapers across the country.

Congrats to everyone involved, including Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro at the Trust and Larry Ryckman at the Colorado Sun!

Please Mind the UX

Last week in this newsletter I gave a lot of praise to the Dallas Morning News for developing a member rewards program. They've done an excellent job at it!

I was going to mention them again this week after I a saw a tweet about them adding to their business reporting team based on analytics

But then, when I clicked through to the article on my phone, I got this:
Ouch. There were so many popups and trays and banners and ads that I literally could not read the article.  I just gave up.

It reminded me of the following thread I saw a few weeks back. Good UX is best. Think about how your audience consumes your work on all platforms, and always strive to make it better. We can do this!

NewStart Update

Congrats to NewStart fellow Becky Pallack and her teammates at #ThisIsTucson for being recipients of the 2020 News Media Alliance John P. Murray Award for Excellence in Audience Development (small category).

The team was recognized for its "exceptional innovation and sophistication in understanding content strategy as part of audience development."
Meanwhile, I'd like to remind you that NewStart fellow Tony Baranowski has a favor to ask. He created this boffo, socko survey as part of his final project for our master's degree program at WVU, and is looking for rural community newspaper owners and publishers to fill it out. So if you fit that description, please tap on the link below and answer a few questions:
Take The Survey
Tony, who is the Director of Local Media for Times Citizen Communications in North Central Iowa and a board member for the Iowa Newspaper Association, would really appreciate it. If you have any questions about it or want to learn more about what he's up to, you can find him on Twitter @tonyapb3.

There is still time to be like Tony and Becky and earn a master's degree in Media Solutions and Innovation from WVU's Reed College of Media. Our next cohort will start learning virtually at the end of June, so if you want in, check out the program details here, and then follow the instructions here to apply!

Quick Hits

Here is a lot of informative news from around the world of local journalism. Enjoy! 

Big Tech's Big Plays: "The world's largest social media website said Wednesday it's rolling out a feature with its mobile app called Neighborhoods in four US cities and Canada. Facebook users have to be at least 18 years old to use the new tool, which will allow people find neighbors who have common interests, discover local groups and businesses, participate in polls along with receiving and offering help to those in their communities." "YouTube is spending $7 million to fund two new programs to help journalists looking to build an audience on YouTube, executives tell Axios. It's the first time YouTube is spending money to fund journalism independently of the $300 million Google has dedicated to journalism programs through its Google News Initiative." “For every other platform, journalism is dispensable. If journalism were to disappear tomorrow their business would carry on much as before,” Haile writes. “Twitter is the only large platform whose success is deeply intertwined with a sustainable journalism ecosystem.” 

"And he is right — it is not just journalism in the classic sense. Journalism, as we have known, is changing. Twitter can’t fall into the trap of the media’s past and almost always lean into the future. Whether it is live conversations, podcasts, video streams, photos, newsletters, everything that is media can benefit from Twitter’s taking a cue from that other content company, Spotify."

(We featured Scroll here in the newsletter in February 2020.) "The campaign will launch with 28 full-page, color ads in local newspapers across the Gannett/USA Today and McClatchy network, including the Detroit Free Press, Columbus Dispatch, Oklahoma City Oklahoman, Indianapolis Star, Miami Herald, Kansas City Star and Cincinnati Enquirer."

Learn: "What the publishers learned from 'Pitch Day' included three key lessons — and several pitfalls to avoid — for any local news organization looking to develop philanthropy as one pillar of sustainable journalism funding..." "To prepare for the coming third-party cookie changes, publishers have been busy stitching together all the information they have about their readers and looking for ways to gather more first-party data.  Gannett is no exception, though its efforts are designed to support subscriber growth just as much as advertiser spending. The news publisher is building audience segments that can replicate the ones advertisers are used to finding using third-party cookies, looking to upgrade its customer data platform (CDP) and adding as many registration points to its sites as possible, including, most recently on USA Today, which historically has been supported solely by advertising." "As local papers close their doors, a morning newsletter defied the odds. Now its founder aims to push the model nationwide." “I feared worse,” said Mark Maassen, executive director of the Missouri Press Association. “I’m bullish. I feared for the worst, and it’s not as bad as I thought.” The Florida Legislature has passed "the most significant piece of public-notice legislation in modern history," reports the Public Notice Resource Center, an advocate for the "legal ads" that have become a much more important revenue source for local newspapers as their advertising bases have shrunk.

This An' 'At: "Watch out, Jackson Hole News & Guide, there’s a new kid in town."


That's all for this week. 

You can follow NewStart on Twitter @wvunewstart, and you can @ me @jimiovino. You can follow us on the Facebooks here.

Interested in supporting our students in Year 2 and beyond? I'd be happy to talk! Wouldn't it be great to offer more fellowships and scholarships? You can help!

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