The National Trust for Local News, a nonprofit started in 2021, will buy the papers from Masthead Maine, a private company that owns most of the independent media outlets in the state, including five of its six daily papers.
The deal includes the five daily papers and 17 weekly papers, Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro, CEO of the National Trust for Local News, said Tuesday.
"We firmly believe in the power of independent, nonpartisan local journalism to strengthen communities and forge meaningful connections," Hansen Shapiro said. "We understand the pivotal role that Masthead Maine and its esteemed publications play in serving the communities of Maine with reliable, high-quality news."
"This could be the most important moment in the history of Maine journalism," Steve Greenlee, executive editor of The Portland Press Herald and The Maine Sunday Telegram, said in an email. "Our news report has always strived to serve the public good, and now our business model will align with that mission."
Many local newspapers have shut down in the past 20 years, as declining print circulation and slowing advertising revenue hollowed them out. Private equity firms and hedge funds in recent years have snapped up the distressed assets, often cutting the shrinking newsrooms even further.
A number of nonprofit news organizations have cropped up around the United States in recent years to try to address the crisis in local news and fill a void left by closed newspapers.
The National Trust for Local News, based in Denver, was started with a goal of preserving local news outlets by helping them find ways to become sustainable. The organization owns 24 local newspapers in Colorado through a collaboration with The Colorado Sun. It has philanthropic funders including the Gates Family Foundation, the Google News Initiative and the Knight Foundation.
"We see the nonprofit model as one that can better sustain journalism's dual nature as both a consumer product and a public good,"said the executive board of the News Guild of Maine, the union representing nearly 200 workers at the papers.
Two climate activists made a beeline for a beautiful Monet painting exhibited at the National Museum in Sweden on a recent Wednesday morning. They wanted to convey the urgency of the environmental crisis — pollution, global warming and other man-made disasters — that could turn the artist's gorgeous gardens at Giverny into a distant memory. So the young protesters followed what has become a familiar playbook: gluing a hand to the artwork's protective glass and smearing it with red paint.
In April, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington two eco-activists splattered paint on the case surrounding a 19th century Degas sculpture, "Little Dancer Aged Fourteen," drawing pine trees and frowny faces onto its plinth with red and black paint — symbolic of blood and oil.
Similar scenes have unfolded at more than a dozen museums over the last year, leaving cultural workers on edge and at a loss for how to prevent climate activists from targeting delicate artworks.
Cultural institutions are attempting to be proactive, when their budgets allow. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, more security has been added to certain exhibitions, including the current blockbuster, "Van Gogh's Cypresses."More than 40 paintings and prints are behind protective glass because of concerns about climate activists. (Last year, protesters threw soup at a Van Gogh painting at London's National Gallery.)
Hedström said that his museum is still calculating the cost of damages that the government might request in prosecuting the activists, who belong to the environmental organization Aterställ Vatmarker (Restore Wetlands).
In what appears to be a tipping point in the United States, prosecutors have brought serious federal charges against protesters who threatened the safety of art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, which is a federal institution.
Kaywin Feldman, the National Gallery's director, said she appreciated work done by authorities "to bring these serious charges."
"People keep saying to me: What on earth does Degas' 'Little Dancer' have to do with climate change? Of course, the answer is nothing," Feldman said. "Museums have always been committed to offering the greatest amount of access possible to original works of art and it has been part of its founding ethos. It bothers us all to have to put up more and more barriers."