ELLSWORTH — Reade Brower of Rockland, the new owner of The Ellsworth American and the Mount Desert Islander, visited both newspapers Tuesday, introduced himself to staff and talked shop over lunch.
Brower was accompanied by Lisa DeSisto, CEO of Maine Today Media, which publishes the Portland Press Herald, Maine Sunday Telegram, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, among others.
Maine Today Media is owned by Brower. In all, through recent acquisitions, Brower has taken ownership of six of Maine’s seven daily newspapers and 21 of the state’s weeklies.
To the 60 employees of The American and Islander, the message from the new owner was simple and reassuring: no changes, keep doing what you’re doing. The transfer of ownership from Alan Baker to Brower, which was effective last Friday, did not involve job or pay cuts. All employees have the same jobs and pay this week that they had last week.
Citing her own experience, DeSisto said Brower’s ownership style was “hands-off.”
“He puts his trust in the hands of the operators” of the individual publications, she said.
The individual newspapers will stick to what Brower calls their “core competence,” but can avail themselves of resources and ideas within the newspaper group. Example: an advertising innovation at one of his Midcoast newspapers is illustrated not by photos but with drawings by local schoolchildren. Called “Ads by Kids,” it has proven to be a popular and profitable vehicle. Brower’s message: feel free to take this or any other idea and run with it.
Turning the example around, The American and Islander’s special publications, Out & About, Overview and Business Neighbors, fitted out with coverage relevant to the respective areas, might sell just as well in southern Maine as they do Downeast. The newspapers within the Brower group can help themselves to each other’s best ideas.
The new arrangement also gives the Hancock County weeklies more buying power in the purchase of newsprint and supplies.
“We just want it to be sustainable,” Brower said.
He described a wedding he’d attended recently. The father of the bride raised his glass and said he felt he wasn’t losing a daughter but gaining a son. That, Brower said, is how he would like all parties to feel about the marriage of the Downeast weeklies to the statewide group — not losing, but gaining.