Small town newspapers in Maine where local is everything.
The local newspaper used to be the only way to learn what’s happening. What’s important in a small Maine town makes the approach to the newsprint layout different than the urban method. In small town Maine, there are no gangs, no drive by shootings. Not eighteen car accident pile ups and local weather is a big news item. So are local town elections and school or zoning board rulings. The local hospital in Maine does not have or need a trauma center for gunshot wound treatment.
The level of advertising income to salt and pepper the local community news. That’s another factor in how thick the latest newspaper installment becomes for area readers. What you pay per column inch is low because so is the population readership. Here is a list of Maine newspapers.
Some Maine newspapers are daily, some weekly.
Over the last forty years I have prepared local real estate ads for the weekly paper in my small home town of Houlton. The Aroostook Times published from 1857 to 1916 had a rival newspaper publication called The Aroostook Pioneer. the two newspapers merged to make one viable local voice to keep local readers informed on their community. This blog posted an article on early local radio and television stations in Maine.
Before the Internet, the interstate, small Maine towns were pretty self contained.
You worked locally, spent most of your money in the confines of the local town boundaries. Railroads helped open up commerce by supply the small Maine towns with goods and service work was done by local residents from the community. Passenger trains helped move the locals back and forth from out of town destinations. Telegrams came in to make sure twitter size announcements. Stop. Western Union wired money back and forth when a loved one was stranded, thrown in the hokey crow bar hotel. Where local dances were for the week. Public suppers were huge news you did not want to miss.
The only social media was what you picked up down at the local Grange hall. Or at the grocery store pushing the squeaky wheel wire cart with one wheel that had a mind of its own. Stopping to exchange news with other familiar shoppers. More news gathered by your partner with the window rolled down talking with the shopper you met inside’s other half. Sitting out in the Main Street parked car location waiting for the weeks groceries and the scuttlebutt of news to leave the store. Or local current news gathered while in the swivel pump up chair, getting your hair clipped or styled. You could get quite an earful of local news just like down at the local grain mill or hardware store picking up supplies.
Telephone operators and party lines were another news leak that might be reliable but dependent on the short term memory and number of how many people used in the round robin news gathering.
Some passing on the local community news were hard of hearing and missed vital facts or recalled the news snippet with an agenda filtering. Even the local small town Maine newspaper editors were known for printing the news as they saw fit. Slightly colored, spiced with editorial spirit to increase readership subscriptions. The newsprint produced made it obvious where their political leanings supported on various local, state and even national issues. For the most part, it was all about the local news events.
Birth announcements, who died this week to take their turn in the obituary section of the small Maine newspaper. Who had a tea and who was there. What they wore described as if it was a royal wedding. Painting the picture for the locals who love a story that is close to home. Out of town guests, who they were, what the folks did while they had company all important stuff to readers in a small Maine town. What was served for food and even the dining on the open front porch location all part of the local news. The string of non-paid but eager to write community reporters from out in the far reaching areas of the circulation. The announcements on job promotions from out of town children of local residents filled the small town Maine newspaper columns too.
Who won the small town in Maine local spelling bee is front page and who’s son or daughter do you suppose that is Martha pondered.
Opening up the fresh folded hot off the local press newspaper edition in a small Maine town. Where is there a dance this week and who is calling the rounds or which band is playing live. Before television, folks were travel to the entertainment that was live and local. There was always a series of dances for all ages… out at the lake, at the VFW hall, in a hotel. There were no franchise motels and boarding homes were plentiful. Folks working on the railroad, in the woods or on the farms traveled into town from sparse unpopulated areas of their Maine county location. Working your room and board as a student attending school because where your family lived there was only so far you could go in the one room set up. Where the older ones helped the younger students.
Honor rolls, local police report on barking dog disturbances. There some newsprint set aside to report about the a grass fire that got a little out of hand when the wind came up last Monday. Which local Maine fire departments responded to the local blaze last week. If it is new reported after the last weekly newspaper came out it is still worthy news for this next edition. Maybe there is more known from local sources to add to the earlier reports doubling back to report the story developments.
Advertisements for jobs, the fine print of bankruptcy or foreclosure notices, the odds and ends for sale in a small Maine town.
Who has a vacancy in an apartment coming up and needing to be filled with a quality renter. That’s in there too. Local service providers with a business card size ad or a sale flyer insertion for buy one, get one free. What’s the price per pound for chicken legs or various cuts of beef down at the local Superette or Foodliner this week. In small Maine towns, there is not much for other competing media outlets to spread the news. Like a Paul Revere clopping through the back streets handing out handbills, the local newspaper delivery boy took over the task. Milk men made home deliveries too and picked up the glass empties. He had eggs, other dairy products to peddle in the door to door in a small Maine town.
The fifteen, twenty five or more years ago today rehash of what was going on in earlier newspaper stories.
Those have a corner spot just like the funnies too. Who’s away in the service and wouldn’t Ernie or Cliff appreciate a letter from home the editor reminds. Would you try to send them a little something for home made goodies and a heart felt note from the small Maine town to cheer them up? To know you appreciate their service in the armed forces and being away during the approaching holiday. Small town Maine newspapers shared the joy and pain and the awareness is greater. Now small local newspapers are combining with others in the same economic restraints of rising print production costs, the declining readership to be one strong viable County voice in Maine.
Anything local to print that would only be of interest to someone living in the small Maine town or with a connection to it.
Part of the small Maine town newspaper readership has always been from outside the geographic boundaries of it. On the mailing list to be kept in the local news circle with the newspaper arriving a few days late but still pertinent. To keep up with the small home town in Maine happenings… like a serial television show sequel. Small town local newspapers also produced letterhead, printed materials like wedding or birth announcements to keep their presses rolling.
Today with social media, the you are there instantly happens with anyone that has thumbs to type. Or a cell phone camera to whip out to capture the still image or local happening video loop. You and I are suddenly eye witness news gathers and reporters. The local population is the cub reporter in small town Maine. The small Maine newspaper that only publishes daily or weekly without a website can only feed the readership at set times. With technological advances, the small radio station can now stream video to deliver the local sporting events. Digital sub-channels on the carrier frequency broadcast other offerings in HD streams.
I remember in the 1970’s and the FM stations worked at using a sub channel for Muzak.
Had to change the large reel to reels used to motivate the workers on the other end of the wireless signal. Depending on the time of day, what was played changed to be like a jolt of slow drip audio coffee. Used to tickle the ears to stimulate and make the mundane chore not drag quite so much. No no, that would hurt production efficiency. The Muzak subscription before XM and other music services feeding all the local banks, dentist offices and local grocery stores. The filler to avoid dead air did not have to be elevator music or clarinets of the big band era either. Dial in the background mood needed to the restaurant surround systems. Then watch the toes tap, smiles while the menu is studied or waitress is a tad delayed but it matters less.
The media outlet institution of today is branching out to do more than the one medium always utilized to deliver the message or information. If they want to stay viable and make the leap from analog to digital. My job as a Maine real estate broker is more than listing properties. It is being the local insider with community knowledge that can share that advantage of being here in Maine to someone that never was. Like when on vacation you ask for directions, where’s the best fish dinner in town or how do you get to the water slides, local matters.
Local small Maine town newspapers list the school lunch menu.
No more worrying about are we having bubble and squeak or stewed tomatoes, liver and onions. Or maybe it’s pigs in a blanket on the school lunch menu highlighted at area schools like it is a competition. It’s the default pizza or chicken nuggets everyday, maybe a salad bar.
Or time to bring a homemade bag lunch from home if time allows and you have the ingredients for something custom made. To have it your way with homemade bread, extra layers of smoked turkey or veggie sticks with the ranch dip. Topped off with a devil’s eye date filled or molasses cookie or two. Carefully wrapped up with loving hands to make sure it stay fresh not dried out by lunch time consumption.
The small town newspapers in Maine have gotten thinner. Advertising dollars get poured into other methods to make impressions.
To captivate customers that have a call to action built in to make the advertising dollars well spent. Media information is pinging all around us. The small newspapers are merging and being absorbed to avoid duplication of services to increase efficiency critical to survival. Our low population makes a media buy of a small radio, television or newspaper still the old Maine broadcasting expression … “a dollar a holler” for a advertising spot. Print is not dead, just used in conjunction with other media options in advertising campaigns today.
You need someone that has lived in these parts for some time to add perspective, know the history and being able to relay it quick and efficiently. The small local Maine newspaper was the town crier. But as the editorial decisions on what’s front page, which stories to cover and in what depth are moved further from the community a disconnect occurs. The live and local aspect gets diminished.
Whatever delivered hopefully with friendly humor or a tad of entertainment using local expressions is what the small town in Maine local newspaper did deliver so well.
But as the ad revenue drops off, the increases in layoffs of writers and other support staff follows to belt tighten. The local newspaper turned county regional publication has watered down and not so just local. The deputized local column reporter for a local town aged out and was not replaced. Today, everything has to be entertaining, fed with the teaspoon of sugar to keep the attention and to go down easy. People’s life are too jam packed for anything else right? Less are chewing up full books and the term reading the newspaper means scanning the headlines. Like they are a bullet list of what you need to know today or this week. You need an analysis to tell you what the news coverage talking heads just said in case you missed it.
The yesteryear images of a small but bustling, vibrant small Maine town shot in black and white are nostalgic.
There are a number of Maine publications that just regurgitate the old images from the newspaper back room files. The old cars, wardrobe from earlier times and shots of buildings in the background of the small Maine town now long gone due to fire or progress have an audience. Aerial shots from farm properties in Maine back when every small town had lots of independent family agriculture enterprises are a popular item for stories. And for whoever now owns the property that may be missing some of the farm buildings, the big barn or open wrap around porch. But shot from the air during a good farming year road after road before the invention of drones with cameras are neat images to add to the blog post, the magazine article or newspaper article revisit to yesterday for their readership.
Thank you for reading our Me In Maine blog post about small town newspapers in Maine. The what is happening to them as they dwindle or get bought and pulled under larger media umbrella ownership. What is delivered means small independent bloggers are a source to turn to for the local community lifestyle and news events in the Maine area surroundings.