Former Portland Press Herald columnist Bill Nemitz said the Maine Journalism Foundation is planning to dissolve and turn over its donations to the Maine Trust for Local News. The foundation helped a national nonprofit acquire the state’s largest network of newspapers. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

A Maine nonprofit that set a goal of acquiring and preserving the state’s largest network of newspapers plans to dissolve following the papers’ recent purchase by the National Trust for Local News.

The Maine Journalism Foundation plans to pass its remaining donations to the Maine Trust for Local News, a subsidiary of the National Trust that owns the group of five daily papers, including the Portland Press Herald, and 17 weeklies formerly part of Masthead Maine.

“Our goal going into this was for the Press Herald and all the other Masthead Maine properties to convert to nonprofit ownership,” said Bill Nemitz, president of the board of the Maine Journalism Foundation. “We didn’t anticipate the roundabout route that ensued, but that’s where we are right now. We feel our work is done and it’s the outcome everyone was looking for.”

Nemitz said he didn’t have an exact date when the foundation will cease to exist but it’s “in the process of winding down.”

The move comes as the Maine Department of the Secretary of State was preparing to dissolve the foundation Friday for failing to file an annual report by June 1. A spokesperson for the department said the report was filed Thursday.

Annual reports contain information on a corporation’s current officers, directors and their addresses and are required by the state to retain good standing and do business in Maine.


Nemitz said the delay was an oversight that the foundation is correcting and the decision to dissolve is being made regardless. “We’ve pretty much decided that once we get that resolved we’re going to be moving towards essentially dissolving ourselves,” he said.

The foundation was formed in July 2022 with the goal of preserving and sustaining local news in Maine. In a column in the Press Herald last April, Nemitz announced the foundation was working to acquire the Masthead Maine papers from Reade Brower and wanted to operate them on a nonprofit model.

But by May, the foundation realized it might come up short in its bid to buy and operate the papers – it had estimated it would need at least $15 million – and began working with the National Trust, which is based in Denver and also owns a chain of 24 community papers in Colorado.

The sale was announced in mid-July and finalized by Aug. 1.

The foundation was a critical partner in the formation of the Maine Trust for Local News, Will Nelligan, Maine project lead at the National Trust for Local News, said in a statement Friday afternoon.

“They rallied the state around this cause and then humbly passed the baton – that is a rare and selfless kind of leadership.”


Nemitz would not say how much money the foundation raised in all, but said about $171,000 was raised through the Michigan-based Local Media Foundation that served as a fiscal agent for the foundation while it was applying to the IRS for designation as a 501(c)3 charitable organization.

Other donations were made directly to the National Trust for Local News and earmarked for the Maine purchase. Nemitz said he could not disclose the amount of those funds because he is under a non-disclosure agreement.

Nemitz said the foundation plans to transfer its remaining funds to the Maine Trust for Local News minus a small amount that will go to administrative costs such as a post office box and attorney’s fees. “A vast majority will go to what the donors intended, which is supporting what is now the Maine Trust for Local News,” he said.

At a meeting with Maine Trust employees in South Portland earlier this month, National Trust Chief Portfolio Officer Ross McDuffie said the Maine Trust is planning to create a local board of directors to ensure local opinions and expertise have a voice in the management of the papers. “We’re very eager to have the great experts at MJF play a part in that and lend their expertise,” McDuffie said.

Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro, co-founder and chief executive officer of the National Trust for Local News, said in an email Friday afternoon that she had just gotten out of a National Trust board meeting about local governance for the Maine Trust.

“I don’t have any concrete updates to share at this time, but the meeting was productive and I will be continuing to work on finalizing the local governance framework with our local partners in the coming weeks,” she said.


Nemitz said he does not plan to stay involved in the Maine Trust.

“I don’t want to give the impression I was snubbed or rebuffed,” he said. “It was just, I want to get back to my life and this seemed like the appropriate time. I love Maine journalism and in particular the Press Herald and other Masthead properties, but I feel there are already a lot of very capable people ready to take up that banner, and I encourage them and applaud them.”

Emily Barr and Bill Burke, the two other board members at the foundation, said in emails that they’ve been pleased with the outcome of the sale of the Masthead papers and felt the time was right for the foundation to step away.

“I am rooting for the papers’ continued success and know they will provide important information and access across Maine’s many diverse communities,” Barr said.

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