June 21, 2018
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MDI residents lament demise of weekly newspaper

Bill Trotter | BDN
Bill Trotter | BDN
Bar Harbor Times reporter Jason Wimbiscus exits the newspaper's offices on Cottage Street on Monday, March 12, 2012 as he and other staff members collected their belongings. The weekly paper is one of four in Maine formerly owned by Rockland-based Village NetMedia, which announced last Friday that it was going out of business and ceasing publication immediately.
By Bill Trotter, BDN Staff

BAR HARBOR, Maine — Despite an attempt in Knox and Waldo counties to revive some weekly newspapers that ceased publication last week, it appears that there will be no savior for the Bar Harbor Times.

The weekly paper was founded in 1914 and for decades was the only weekly on Mount Desert Island, covering municipal meetings and community news. Mount Desert Island now has another weekly newspaper, the Mount Desert Islander, which Editor Earl Brechlin and Publisher Alan Baker founded in 2001, but many are lamenting the loss of the Times’ longtime presence on MDI.

“That’s the livelihood of any town, is to have a local newspaper so you know what’s going on,” Deborah Dyer, curator of the Bar Harbor Historical Society, said Tuesday. “It was the thing. It was the local paper.”

Reade Brower, publisher of the Free Press in the midcoast area, announced Monday that he is interested in acquiring Village NetMedia’s former assets.
Brower has said he is interested in reviving the former Village Soup papers in Knox and Waldo counties, but that he was not interested in continuing operation of the Bar Harbor Times or the Capital Weekly in Augusta, which was founded in 1996.

Dyer, whose mother used to work for the Times, said that having two weekly papers in town over the past decade gave local residents a wider perspective on local affairs than having just one weekly newspaper would have done. But she said change is inevitable, even for institutions that have been around for generations.

“Times change. We have to conform to it,” Dyer said. “It’s unfortunate to see it close.”

Dyer said the historical society has microfilm copies of the Bar Harbor Times from 1914 through 2007, and microfilm copies of the Mount Desert Herald and the Bar Harbor Record, which preceded the Times. She said she is hoping to acquire the Times’ bound copies of its past issues, which date back to the 1970s, in order to preserve them.

Dana Reed, Bar Harbor’s town manager, recalled Tuesday that the Times was the only weekly newspaper on MDI when he started working for the town in 1986. He said he is sorry that the closure will result in the loss of half a dozen or so local jobs. Most of the paper’s production staff had been shifted to Rockland over the years.

As town manager, Reed said he dealt with the newspaper on a regular basis as it reported on municipal affairs such as board votes or budget decisions.

“It really is up to the weeklies to cover these things,” Reed said. “It will be missed by a lot of people.”

On Monday, the paper’s staffers cleaned out their desks at the newspaper’s Cottage Street offices. One of them was Laurie Schreiber, who worked at the newspaper for 22 years.

Schreiber said Tuesday in an email that she saw many changes at the paper over the years but she enjoyed her experience there.

“The Bar Harbor Times, like everything else, is ephemeral in the great scheme of the universe,” Schreiber wrote. “But it once had greatness in its role as an ongoing record keeper. Now it has greatness in its role as an important piece of the community’s history. That’s good, and it’s sad.”

Village NetMedia acquired Courier Publications, which operated five newspapers including the Bar Harbor Times, in 2008. Courier Publications had repeatedly changed hands over the prior decade.

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