All posts by The Maine Press Association

Court backs Press Herald in public access appeal

In a case that the Portland Press Herald took to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, joined by the MPA and other public-access advocates, the court has rejected the state’s practice of withholding transcripts from 911 calls in homicide cases.
The unanimous decision, issued Nov. 14, compelled the Attorney General’s Office to release transcripts of 911 calls made right before and after three people were shot in Biddeford on Dec. 29.
In ruling that such documents are public records, the court overturned a lower-court ruling that releasing them could interfere with the prosecution of James Pak, who is charged with killing two people and wounding one.
The Press Herald sought transcripts of three 911 calls to learn what dispatchers were told and why police initially considered the situation a “civil issue” and left just minutes before the shootings.
The justices’ ruling says, “We conclude that the state failed to meet its burden of establishing the reasonable possibility that disclosure of the Pak E-9-1-1 transcripts would interfere with law enforcement proceedings.”
Cliff Schechtman, executive editor of the Press Herald, said, “The court has made it clear that government secrecy cannot win out over the public’s right to know. This ruling will allow the public to better evaluate how well first responders protect and serve their communities.”
Sigmund Schutz of Preti Flaherty, the attorney who represented the Press Herald in the appeal, said the ruling will have a broader effect on the public’s right to know.
“It does reject the notion that we can have a sort of categorical assertion that records held by law enforcement are confidential,” he told the newspaper in a story published Nov. 15.
The MPA and five other groups joined the Press Herald in the lawsuit, filing amicus briefs with the court: the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the New England First Amendment Center, the Maine Association of Broadcasters and The Associated Press.

Newspaper of the Year awards, Hall of Fame inductions highlight 2013 Fall Conference

The Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram were named the daily and weekend Newspapers of the Year, respectively, during the Maine Press Association’s 2013 Fall Conference on Oct. 26 in Bar Harbor.
For the second year in a row, the Mount Desert Islander of Bar Harbor was named Newspaper of the Year among weeklies with circulation of 4,000 or more, and the York County Coast Star of Kennebunk won the award for smaller papers.
The winners were honored during an awards dinner that drew close to 190 people to the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel and Conference Center. Throughout the course of the day, the conference drew close to 250 people.
Since 2006, the Mount Desert Islander has been named Newspaper of the Year seven times. It won five times in the Weekly 1 division before moving up last year and winning the Weekly 2 award. The judge for the category, Morry Thomas, publisher of the News and Press in Darlington, S.C. said: “Clean, consistent design showcases the editorial content of this quality newspaper. Great photography and strong headline writing pushed the Mount Desert Islander into the top spot.”
In picking the York County Coast Star as Newspaper of the Year in Weekly 1, Charles Perry, editor of the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Herald, said, “There’s a great sense of community in this paper. … This is the clear winner.”
The Maine Sunday Telegram was the weekend Newspaper of the Year for the third time in four years. With the win for the Press Herald, the Portland papers swept the Newspaper of the Year awards for the first time since 2000. The last paper to win the daily and weekend awards in the same year was the Sun Journal of Lewiston, in 2009.
For the second year, the MPA also gave awards for Advertising General Excellence.
The Kennebec Journal of Augusta took first place in the daily division and the Sun Journal won the competition for weekend papers. The Mount Desert Islander won the competition for larger weekly papers, and The Original Irregular of Kingfield took the award in the Weekly 1 division for the second consecutive year.
The Sun Journal was the winner of the Freedom of Information Award for daily and weekend papers, for at least the fourth year in a row, and Jennifer Feals and Laura Dolce of the York County Coast Star won the award for weeklies.
The Best Website award went to The Ellsworth American in the competition for weekly papers, and to the Press Herald/Telegram in the competition for dailies and weekend papers.
See the complete list of winners by clicking on 2013 CONTEST  WINNERS.

Individual honors

Lindsay Tice holds her plaque after being named Journalist of the Year. With her are her parents, left, and Sun Journal editors Judy Meyer and Rex Rhoades.
Lindsay Tice holds her plaque after being named Journalist of the Year. With her are her parents, left, and Sun Journal editors Judy Meyer and Rex Rhoades.

Lindsay Tice, a longtime staff writer for the Sun Journal, was named Journalist of the Year by the MPA. The nominations were judged by Tom Kearney, longtime editor of The Keene Sentinel in New Hampshire and the Stowe Reporter in Vermont, who said: “Tice’s range is deep and wide. … (She) has a knack for getting people to talk with her, and the skill to use all the tools available to her – a nose for news, fine writing, research, data analysis, careful thought – to give Sun Journal readers the kind of information every news organization should strive to deliver.
Michael Shepherd was the winner of the annual Bob Drake Young Writer’s Award. The judge, Jon Kellogg, editor of the Waterbury Republican American in Connecticut, said: “What I like about him … is that he is a story teller” who finds interesting characters and uses knowledgeable sources to build controversy, depth and drama. … I’m going to keep his clips; not to steal him, but to share with our cops and courts reporters.”
And the MPA’s first Unsung Hero Award went to Nancy Larsen of The Ellsworth American. The winner was chosen by the MPA board. In nominating Larsen, The Ellsworth American’s managing editor, Stephen Fay, said, “No one knows exactly all that she does, or exactly how she does it. And she doesn’t hear the words ‘thank you, I appreciate that’ nearly often enough.”

Three new members of Hall
During the day’s Hall of Fame luncheon, the MPA inducted three new members: Don Hansen, Scott Haskell and Emery “Legs” Labbe.
Over the course of 30 years, Hansen was a reporter, editor, political columnist, editorial writer and editorial page director for the Press Herald and Telegram and the Portland Evening Express.
Haskell was a photographer and photo editor with the Bangor Daily News before retiring in 2011 after a 33-year career.
Labbe, a well-known figure in Aroostook County’s St. John Valley, was a sportswriter for the St. John Valley Times for more than 30 years and publisher of the paper for a decade.
The keynote speaker for the luncheon was Matt Hongoltz-Hetling, who was co-Journalist of the Year in 2012, along with A.M. Sheehan, for reporting for the Advertiser Democrat on substandard public housing in western Maine. Read his speech here.

Auction provides $1,600 for scholarships
The annual auction to benefit the MPA’s scholarship fund for journalism students at the University of Maine raised close to $1,600, thanks to donations by members and friends of the association. The money raised on the Saturday night of the conference will be used to award one or more scholarships in the spring.
If you were the winning bidder on any item and have not yet paid, please contact the MPA at

Were you there?
Did you attend the Fall Conference? If you did, what did you think worked best? What didn’t work? What would you like to see at future conferences? Honest feedback is critical for the MPA board as it plans each year’s conference aiming to give members what they want.
So let us know what you thought, about everything from the seminars to the Hall of Fame luncheon to the venue to the awards dinner. Contact the MPA at
If you took photos at the conference, we hope that you’ll share some for a photo gallery on this website. Please include information for captions and email your photos to us.

Donations needed for scholarship auction

The MPA is seeking items for the annual auction to benefit its scholarship fund for journalism students at the University of Maine. Each year, the auction gives bidders a chance to buy items including restaurant gift certificates, clothing, Maine souvenirs and accessories with newspaper logos while supporting a good cause.
The success of the auction depends on the generosity of members and friends of the MPA. This year, with donations from the 2012 auction, the MPA awarded $500 scholarships to Cameron Paquette of Greene and Liam Nee of Orono, two members of The Maine Campus student newspaper.
The auction will begin at 5:30 on Oct. 26 at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel and Conference Center in Bar Harbor, during the annual Fall Conference. If you have something to donate, contact the MPA at
Last-minute registrations are now being taken for the conference, which will feature the most extensive advertising seminar offered by the MPA in years.
“Ad Rep University” will be a three-part program led by experts in ad sales, ad design and customer service. It will help advertising representatives from both daily and weekly newspapers better assist their customers.
Download the conference program and 2013 Fall Conference registration here.

MPA names 2013 Hall of Fame inductees

Three new members have been chosen to join the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame.
The MPA’s Hall of Fame Committee has selected Don Hansen, retired editorial page editor for the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram; Scott Haskell, retired photo editor of the Bangor Daily News; and Emery “Legs” Labbe, retired sportswriter and publisher for the St. John Valley Times, as this year’s inductees.
The Hall of Fame was established in 1998 to honor newspaper journalists with Maine connections who have made outstanding contributions to the profession. With the 2013 inductions, the Hall of Fame will have 60 members.
The new members will be inducted at a luncheon on Oct. 26 at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel and Conference Center in Bar Harbor, as part of the annual MPA Fall Conference. To register for the induction ceremony or the entire conference, contact by Oct. 10. For room reservations at the Atlantic Oceanside at a special group rate, call (800) 336-2463.
This year’s inductees:

Don Hansen
Don Hansen spent his career in Maine journalism – as a reporter, editor, political columnist, editorial writer and, finally, the longtime editorial page director of the Gannett newspapers of Portland: the Press Herald, the Maine Sunday Telegram and the Evening Express. In that time, he made a singular contribution to every aspect of those jobs, and to Maine journalism in general.
Don HansenBorn in Aroostook County in 1935, Hansen set out on his professional path upon graduation from high school. After earning a degree in journalism at Boston University in 1957, he immediately won a job as editor of the Boothbay Register. Two years later, he became editor of the Brunswick Record, and in 1960 he joined the Portland newspapers. He started as City Hall reporter and then, for a dozen years, covered the State House.
He earned a reputation for a reporting style that was direct, informed and rounded. His twice-weekly columns reflected his ability to sort out complicated legislative issues with clarity and easygoing humor.
In 1973, Hansen was named editorial page director for the Portland papers. He held the job for the better part of two decades, during which he helped to transform editorial pages that were perceived as reliably Republican into a broader, more open forum for independent views.
Throughout his long career, Hansen worked to maintain the highest standards of his craft. His efforts had a direct impact on the course of politics and public affairs in this state, and on the quality of information available to Maine citizens.

Scott Haskell
Over the course of his 33-year career with the Bangor Daily News, Scott Haskell established himself as a premier photographer and made the newspaper a magnet for other talented visual journalists, with his leadership as photo editor for 18 years.
HaskellRetires0805-JCR.jpgWhen Haskell retired in August 2011, the newspaper published a story that said, “His photographs captured celebration and joy, tragedy and grief, and almost everything in between. … He spent hot afternoons in blueberry fields, freezing mornings on rural roads” and was even at the controls of the nuclear submarine USS Maine for a couple of minutes during a shakedown cruise, diving beyond the continental shelf off Connecticut.
Haskell started taking pictures for the Bangor Daily News in 1977, when he was a journalism student at the University of Maine. He was promoted to photo editor in 1993 and, when he retired, had the title of visuals editor, with responsibility for photos and video on the newspaper’s website.
Over the course of his career, he won numerous awards from the Maine Press Association, New England press associations, the National Press Photographers Association and the Society for News Design.
Mike Dowd, the editor-in-chief of the Bangor Daily News when Haskell retired, wrote in nominating Haskell to the MPA Hall of Fame, “I was fortunate to work with Scott for nearly 30 years and found him to be not only an exemplary journalist, but an exceptional human being.”

Emery “Legs” Labbe
Emery “Legs” Labbe started in newspapers as a part-time sports reporter for the St. John Valley Times in 1965, while he was teaching elementary school in northern Aroostook County. That part-time job led to a career in journalism spanning more than 30 years, in which Legs LabbeLabbe became publisher of the weekly paper in Madawaska and what one of his successors, Tessie Dubois, called “a living legend” in Maine’s St. John Valley.
“He made a career of pushing ink across countless pages because he believed in the importance of sports and athletics upon the growing adolescents and young adults,” wrote Beurmond Banville, a retired Bangor Daily News reporter who covered the area and joined the Hall of Fame in 2011. “He brought them into the limelight, told their stories, their triumphs and joys and the sad stories of defeats and broken hearts.”
In recommending Labbe for the Hall of Fame, Banville wrote, “In all likelihood, if you participated in sports in northern Maine since 1960, ‘Legs’ Labbe has probably written about you.”
Labbe worked as sports reporter and editor until 1986, when he retired from education and became publisher of the St. John Valley Times. He served for a decade before retiring from that position.
Another Hall of Famer, former St. John Valley Times Editor and Publisher Don Levesque, wrote, “Legs cared. That’s the bottom line. Legs cared about young athletes and he publicly celebrated their achievement and mourned their losses. People who truly care about something can be very rare indeed. There will never be another Legs Labbe, the bar he set for covering local sports is much too high.”

State offers new guidance on sales tax

Maine Revenue Services issued a new guidance document today regarding the collection of sales taxes for newspapers, which takes effect Oct. 1. Read the guidance document for publications here.
Note that this update mentions a future informational notice regarding the publishing of advertising inserts and free newspapers. It appears that more clarity on this issue is forthcoming.
If you have any questions, please contact the Maine Press Association at

Conference program features ‘Ad Rep University’

The Maine Press Association will offer its most extensive advertising seminar in years at its annual Fall Conference next month in Bar Harbor.
“Ad Rep University” will be a three-part program on the afternoon of the conference, led by experts in ad sales, ad design and customer service. It will help advertising representatives from the MPA’s daily and weekly newspapers better assist their customers.
A complete description of Ad Rep University and its presenters is in the conference program.
The program also includes sessions on public notices, video production, and coverage of domestic and sexual assault, as well as the MPA’s annual business meeting, the 16th annual Hall of Fame inductions and the Better Newspaper Contest awards dinner. The full day of events is scheduled Oct. 26 at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel and Conference Center in Bar Harbor.
The program and the 2013 Fall Conference registration form are available now. The registration deadline is Oct. 10.
The Atlantic Oceanside is now taking room reservations for the weekend of the Fall Conference. The MPA has a special group rate of $109 a night, good for the nights of Oct. 25-27.
The deadline for room reservations is Sept. 25. To make reservations, call the hotel at (800) 336-2463 and request rooms from the Maine Press Association block. More information about the Atlantic Oceanside is available at

Sign up now for Fall Conference in Bar Harbor

The Maine Press Association is now taking registrations for the annual Fall Conference next month in Bar Harbor. The program will be released next week for a full day of events Oct. 26 at the Atlantic Oceanside Hotel and Conference Center.
The program will include sessions on public notices, ad sales and video production, as well as the MPA’s annual business meeting, the 16th annual Hall of Fame inductions and the Better Newspaper Contest awards dinner.
Download the 2013 Fall Conference registration form here. The registration deadline is Oct. 10. The complete program will be posted in the MPA newsletter and on this website.
The Atlantic Oceanside is taking room reservations for the weekend of the Fall Conference. The MPA has a special group rate of $109 a night, good for the nights of Oct. 25-27.
The deadline for room reservations is Sept. 25. To make reservations, call the hotel at (800) 336-2463 and request rooms from the Maine Press Association block. More information about the Atlantic Oceanside is available at

Advice offered on new sales tax

The Maine Press Association is working with Maine Revenue Services regarding the implementation of the state’s new 5.5 percent sales tax on newspaper subscriptions and single-copy sales. Tax collections are scheduled to start on Oct. 1.
The MPA will hold a conference call with Maine Revenue Services officials on Thursday, Sept. 5 at 3:30 p.m. The call is for members to ask specific questions about the tax implementation.

The call information is:
Number: 1.866.642.1665
PW: 545726#

Maine Revenue Services also plans four sales tax symposiums across the state in September to engage businesses affected by changes in the sales tax. This is another opportunity to engage the agency directly with questions or concerns.
Read the MPA’s full sales tax advisory and find answers to some common questions.

Newspaper sales tax effective Oct. 1

The state budget that lawmakers enacted on June 26 contains two significant changes for Maine’s newspapers.
The MPA lost its fight to maintain newspapers’ longstanding sales-tax exemption. To balance the budget, the Legislature approved a plan to make newspapers and other periodicals taxable. The new tax, 5.5 percent, will take effect Oct. 1. It will apply only to newspaper sales, not advertising.
As the MPA argued before the Legislature, collecting the new tax will create logistical challenges for newspapers. The MPA welcomes members’ questions and will work to offer guidance in the three months before newspapers become taxable.
The budget also contains a significant step forward, by ensuring that the state’s newspapers will continue to deliver public notices at least through 2017. In exchange, the MPA and the state’s newspapers will take on new responsibilities.
The provision says any “legal notice appearing in a newspaper … must be placed on any publicly accessible website that the newspaper maintains” by the day it appears in print. That requirement will take effect Jan. 1.
Starting July 1, 2014, newspapers’ websites will have to offer a search function for notices. And the MPA will be required to establish and maintain an online repository of public notices statewide. The MPA is now preparing to establish that system.
The MPA, with key support from Rep. Peggy Rotundo of Lewiston, the House chair of the Appropriations Committee, backed the proposal to ensure that public agencies continue placing notices in newspapers – in print and online – and to head off an effort by Gov. Paul LePage to shift state, county and local notices away from newspapers and onto a state-owned website.
The MPA plans to hold a workshop at the Fall Conference in October to help member newspapers plan to meet the new requirements for public notices.
Send any questions you have about the sales tax and public notices to

Nomination deadlines near

Two deadlines are approaching for those who want to nominate deserving individuals for honors from the Maine Press Association.
Nominations will be taken until Friday, July 12, for the MPA Hall of Fame. Candidates must be Maine newspaper professionals who have made lasting contributions to their craft, in or out of the state. Typically, some of each year’s Hall of Fame class is inducted posthumously.
A committee will meet in July to select inductees to the 16th Hall of Fame class. Each nomination should be accompanied by supporting material that will help committee members as they make their decisions.
Nominations can be sent to the committee chair, Bob Caswell, at, or USM Public Affairs, P.O. Box 9300, Portland, ME 04014. If you have questions, please call 780-4200.

Member newspapers have until July 15 to make nominations for Journalist of the Year, Advertising Person of the Year, the Bob Drake Young Writer’s Award and – new this year – the Unsung Hero Award.
Mail all nominations to the Maine Press Association, c/o Jeff Ham, 26 Elmwood Road, Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107.
Criteria for the awards are in the Contest Rules that were sent to newspapers in April, and at
If you have questions about the awards, contact the MPA at