Harpswell newspaper 'stared death in the face,' plans to continue
HARPSWELL — The Harpswell Anchor's publisher Wednesday said his newspaper's future looks a little brighter after it faced great uncertainty in September, when his only two staff members left and more than three dozen advertisers had not paid their bills.
Publisher Robert Anderson has since delivered the October edition of the paper – albeit 12 days late – and has hired three new staff members for the 14-year-old paper.
"We have a pretty energetic crew," Anderson said. "They're all anxious to keep the paper going."
The new staff members – Tom Allen, Joe Grady and Kara Douglas – have all agreed to divide the required work to produce the monthly direct-mail newspaper, Anderson said.
"They all understand what it takes to keep this paper running," he said.
Two more issues are expected by the end of the year, Anderson said. Then he will reassess the paper and determine if it is still viable at the beginning of 2013.
He said there are still several advertising clients that have yet to pay up, though one of his new staffers will be working on collections.
If the newspaper keeps going, the publisher said he is considering an educational partnership with a proposed Harpswell charter school, if it receives state approval.
As a member of the Harpswell Charter School Initiative, Anderson said he would bring in interns who want to learn about journalism and newspaper publishing.
In the October issue, Anderson said he ran a story titled "Man and Paper at a Crossroads" by longtime contributor Kenneth Chutchian to explain why the Anchor was late and the difficulties it faces.
Chutchian wrote, "The Anchor is not dead. But it has stared death in the face, and Anderson is still recovering."
It also stressed the newspaper's need for community support along with the finances and submissions to keep it going.
According to the article, the Anchor costs about $1,000-$1,400 a month to print and spends an additional $10,000 a month for insurance, utilities, taxes, supplies and Web site maintenance.
In addition to problems with advertisers, Anderson said "we seemed to have lost involvement from the community. We need the information to put it in the paper."
If things don't pan out, Anderson said he will consider turning the Harpswell Anchor's building at 945 Harpswell Neck Road into an ice cream and gift shop.
"It's something I've considered if this doesn't work," he said. "If I can't make this work, I have to do something else financially. It's not off the table."
But for now, Anderson said he will work to keep the newspaper running with a focus on positive news.
"This paper is what brings the town together, the Neck and the Island," he told Chutchian. "We always try to put a positive spin on news. We want people to feel good about Harpswell. We want people to get involved."