Steve Greenlee, executive editor of the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, is stepping down this summer to become a professor and lead a student news organization at Boston University.

Greenlee, 54, announced his resignation in a note to staff members Thursday. His last day will be July 26.

“I’ve agonized over this decision. When I returned to the Press Herald in 2012, I expected to retire here,” he wrote. “I hired many – most? – of you over the past 12 years, and I feel a certain level of responsibility for this newsroom and the people in it.

“But we have terrific leadership across the room, and the work we’re doing to accelerate our digital transformation will set us up well to face the future and sustain our operation. With the backing of the National Trust for Local News and a publisher who cares about good journalism, this newsroom has a bright future. You’re well-positioned to continue doing exceptional work.”

Steve Greenlee, executive editor of the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, is leaving the media company to become a professor at Boston University. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Press Herald Publisher Lisa DeSisto said Thursday that she’ll soon begin the process of finding Greenlee’s replacement.

“We’ll have a formal process and a hiring committee and have a chance to sit down and talk to candidates,” she said. “I think under our new ownership model, the prospect of coming to a company owned by the National Trust for Local News should be attractive.”


Greenlee, a Rhode Island native, spent several years early in his career in a variety of positions at the Portland Press Herald, including as a Portland City Hall reporter, night editor and features editor. He then spent 12 years at the Boston Globe in several roles, including editor of page one features, before returning to the Press Herald in 2012 as managing editor under former top editor Cliff Schechtman.

When Schechtman retired in 2021, Greenlee was promoted to the top editor job.

“I’m enormously proud of this newsroom,” Greenlee wrote to staff. “We’ve done deep, important, powerful, creative work together over the past 12 years. Much of it has resulted in meaningful change. Much of it has helped Maine see itself better. We’ve shined many lights on wrongdoing and good-doing.”

During Greenlee’s leadership, the paper has won national recognition for its journalism and also has gone through two different ownership changes, most recently last year when former owner Reade Brower sold his media assets to the National Trust for Local News.

“This is a big blow to the Press Herald because Steve is one of the best editors in the country,” said Schechtman. “I hope the new owners find an accomplished watchdog journalist to continue championing this important work.”

In explaining his decision, Greenlee described the “heavy burden” of leading a newsroom and said he needed a change.


His new role will be as a professor of the practice of journalism at Boston University, which has a prestigious journalism program. He will lead a newsroom of students that will provide journalism to the growing number of nonprofit news organizations emerging across the region.

“These fledgling news organizations are hungry for journalism, and the students of New England’s biggest and best journalism school are eager for real-world experience and bylines,” Greenlee wrote. “The prospect of building and running this brand-new program is both daunting and exciting.”

Brian McGrory, who chairs BU’s journalism department and was the top editor at the Boston Globe for a decade, said “we got a great person for the job and a great job for the person.”

“We’re building a newsroom with the intention of providing high-quality journalism to news organizations across the region, and we wanted someone with very skilled professional oversight and elite quality editing abilities,” he said. “(Steve) is a journalist’s journalist. He understands how to lead in challenging times, and (the Press Herald) has an extraordinary track record.”

Greenlee, an accomplished keyboardist who plays in two local bands, has three grown children with his wife, Kelly.

DeSisto also came to Maine in 2012 from the Boston Globe. In an email to staff, she called his departure “bittersweet.”


“Steve has been a versatile news leader – his role includes a heavy volume of cross-department meetings in addition to his day job of overseeing the journalism,” she wrote.

“He leads with integrity, always guided by the highest ethical standards. His focus on producing important enterprise work shows in the quality of our product,” DeSisto wrote. “Through the years, I hear repeatedly from readers on how we punch above our weight at the PPH in comparison to newspapers in markets much larger than Portland.”

DeSisto is now CEO of the Maine Trust for Local News, which was created when the National Trust for Local News purchased the newspaper and several other daily and weeklies, including the Sun Journal, Kennebec Journal, Times Record and more.

Asked about how the transition has gone in the 11 months since the sale, DeSisto said it’s been a “whirlwind.”

“We’re working to transform our business to bring long-term sustainability and we’re seeing early investments in things like increasing print revenue and acquiring new digital subscribers,” she said.

Join the Conversation

Please sign into your Press Herald account to participate in conversations below. If you do not have an account, you can register or subscribe. Questions? Please see our FAQs.

filed under: