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Newly-formed nonprofit seeks to buy most of Maine newspapers

The Maine Journalism Foundation, a nonprofit intent on buying out Masthead Maine, would own the Portland Press Herald and 29 other local papers if successful.

A newly formed nonprofit group headed by a longtime Maine journalist wants to buy most of the newspapers in the state.

Members of the group, Maine Journalism Foundation, said Monday they hope to buy Masthead Maine, which owns the Portland Press Herald, the state's largest daily newspaper, and 29 other daily and weekly papers. Masthead Maine's owner told staff in March that he's considering selling the media holdings.

The potential buy comes as some newspapers around the country have explored not-for-profit models to try to achieve sustainability. The Chicago Sun-Times became a nonprofit newspaper last year, and the Salt Lake Tribune made the move in 2019.

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Maine Journalism Foundation's president is Bill Nemitz, a fixture in Maine news who worked for the Press Herald for nearly four decades before retiring from a job as a columnist last year. He said the not-for-profit model would keep Maine's newspaper industry locally-owned and committed to news and not the financial bottom line.

"We're from Maine, we're of Maine, and our only interest is to support and grow the journalism," Nemitz said. "Not to pull money out of these operations. We know these newspapers, and more importantly these newspapers know their communities."

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Masthead Maine is the dominant media company in the state, with a combined daily circulation over 60,000 through its five dailies and tens of thousands more when the weekly papers are included. The company's owner, Reade Brower, told The Associated Press he's considering "multiple" potential buyers, including the not-for-profit group. He declined to name the other potential buyers.

"Certainly I am open to the pathway of a nonprofit option," Brower said. "It’s really important to me, the integrity of the process. I'm trying to create a process that is open and fair and gives me the most options."

The not-for-profit group is in the early stages of fundraising, Nemitz said. He said the group has a goal of $15 million that is based on the estimated cost of the acquisition and initial operations.

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