If you were to ask a random group of 10 people what the word, “local” means you might get 10 different responses. Depending on the group you might get even more definitions. Sometimes being local takes on a whole different meaning when it comes to Maine. We are the land, after all, that seemed to invent the idea of someone being, “from away.”

Take your hometown newspaper, The Times Record, for instance. The paper covers the news and notes of a couple of dozen municipalities and throws in a little regional and national news to boot. It is a local paper. It even reminds us of that on the nameplate for the paper as it says, “Local. Legitimate. Journalism”.

When I was contacted in the late summer of 2015 and asked to write for the paper the editor stressed how important it was to have local voices discussing local topics. With the 24 hour news cycles and social media, it is easy to find someone who can and will comment upon every manner of topic from foreign policy to the stock market. The hard part is finding someone who has a finger on the pulse of a local issue. That is hard to find.

A diversity of thought is important. It is no secret that The Times Record has been seen for decades as a paper that caters to one side of the political equation. The leadership of the paper has known it and they have acknowledged it in the past. This is why, in part, that I was asked to write a column. In a landscape as tough as the print media business the paper could not afford to run anyone off. The paper did not want to potentially lose out on subscribers and revenue because they were seen as turning a blind eye to a portion of the reading public.

The paper has a unique footprint in this part of Maine. They are known as the only daily paper in the Midcoast area. Think about that from Yarmouth to Damariscotta. From Wiscasset to Richmond. The differences in this area in thought and news is rich.

That idea, that local footprint seems to be changing.

Quietly, over the course of the last few years, most of the daily, weekly and regional print news resources have been bought by one person, Reade Brower. He has treated the journalism landscape in Maine like Sherman treated the Georgia countryside as he marched to the sea.

The flagship, of course, is the Portland Press Herald. For weekly’s there’s the Forecaster and a number of other papers around southern Maine.  For dailies, there is the Sun Journal, the Kennebec Journal and The Times Record among others. In fact, the only daily paper in the state that is not held by this consortium is that small broadsheet in Bangor.

From an economic standpoint this makes sense. If you can commingle the resources of several different papers together it should reduce costs. Manpower, printing, advertising can all be done more efficiently if you are sharing the costs across a wide platform. However, it remains to be seen if, under this new model, content and that diversity of thought is impacted.

Have you looked through the Times Record lately? Within its pages more stories are showing up with by lines from the Portland Press Herald. As more material filters onto its pages from other regional papers, that home town feel, that local, aspect slowly fades away.

If, as a news reader, I can read the same material in two papers, why would I buy the second paper or go to a second webpage? It will be a sad day when, in an attempt to fill column inches, the paper loses that which makes it unique. Watching that local flavor get replaced by a far larger regional daily will only help to lose our voice.

In becoming part of a stable, The Times Record can remain legitimate and obviously be journalism, but the local part is going to be harder to maintain.

Jonathan Crimmins can be reached at [email protected]

Editor’s note:

We agree with Mr. Crimmins’ ascertation that “a diversity of thought is important.” We would further argue that since the paper’s acquisition by Reade Brower, we have been able to provide a greater diversity of local and state coverage, thanks to partnerships with not only the Portland Press Herald, but with the Kennebec Journal, The Forecaster, Coastal Journal and others. Our Local and Maine pages are more robust and carry far more indepth stories that, prior to the acquisition, were out of our reach. Rather than supplant our own stories, this sharing agreement supplements our coverage, while allowing our own, admittedly small staff to take deeper dives into the stories that matter most. Local journalism matters at The Times Record. It always will.

Comments are not available on this story.