Editor J.W. Oliver, Administrative Assistant Sam Allen and Director of Development and Operations Janice Thompson hold the first issue of the rekindled Harpswell Anchor. Photo courtesy of Janice Thompson

After the Harpswell Anchor, a small monthly newspaper in Harpswell folded last fall, a group of local residents banded together to bring the paper back to life, this time as a nonprofit organization.

“It’s a true grassroots effort,” said J.W. Oliver, who will serve as the newspaper’s new editor. “This is not a newspaper or publishing company coming in and saying ‘We see a market opportunity here.’ This is a group of people who live in Harpswell and missed their paper and said ‘We’re going to start a new one.’”

Oliver will leave his position as editor of the Lincoln County News, where he has worked for 11 years, the past five as editor. He will start at the Harpswell Anchor on June 21.

Oliver said he was drawn to the Harpswell Anchor both because he feels local journalism is important to the communities it serves, and he was intrigued by the idea of running a newspaper as a nonprofit.

“Anyone who works in news becomes interested in the sustainability of local journalism,” said Oliver. “Applying the nonprofit aspect to a newspaper, to my knowledge, isn’t something Maine newspapers are doing. I’m interested in making a model that others can follow.”

The newspaper will be run by Harpswell News, a nonprofit organization. The group is still seeking its nonprofit status.

Janice Thomson, who now serves as the newspaper’s director of development and operations, organized the group of residents who made the initial push to revive the paper. She said the group felt something was lost when the local paper ceased because it tied the geographically scattered town together and gave local businesses and organizations a place to post their announcements.

“I was working as the director of development at the Harpswell Heritage Land Trust at the time and when the Anchor left, they didn’t have a direct way to communicate with the community,” said Thompson.

Thompson said the group pulled their money, and reached out to residents, to fund restarting the paper.

The front page of the new Harpwell Anchor, published in June. Photo courtesy of Janice Thompson

“To me, it was a no-brainer that the local residents would be willing to support the paper, and we found that to be true,” said Thompson. “From a fundraising point of view, you have a wonderful product and an engaged population, and those two things are like gold.”

The group raised $45,000 in donations, allowing the group to purchase the rights from the previous editor, Bob Anderson, said Thompson. She anticipates the paper will have an annual budget of $200,000, which will be split between advertisement revenue and community donations.

The first issue was published this month. Just like the original, the paper will be issued monthly and mailed to every Harpswell address.

“It was a heavy lift to restart something that had been dormant for seven months,” said Harpswell resident Doug Warren, vice president of Harpswell News board of directors. “What I’ve been hearing from people is they missed the Anchor because it’s a way to tie the community together, and that’s what our goal is.”

Though Maine has several local newspapers, Warren, Thompson and Oliver agreed they wanted to resurrect the Harpswell Anchor, in part, to keep the community informed and prevent Harpswell from becoming a “news desert’ — a place not covered by a news organization.

“Local news is in a tailspin and the lack of coverage is creating news deserts in wide swaths of this country,” said Warren. “Information is power and people need to have access to information that’s important to their lives to have the power to make informed decisions on things in their community, whether that’s the school board or the impact of climate change locally.”

Thompson said funding the paper through advertisement revenue alone “wasn’t financially sustainable anymore,” making running the paper through a nonprofit the obvious choice.

“We were seeing this growing business model that was taking its place,” said Thompson. “We decided we wanted to be on the side of the future.”

Comments are not available on this story.