November 13, 2014

Portland Phoenix bought by Portland newspaper

The Portland Phoenix alternative weekly newspaper is no longer at risk of shutting down after announcing Wednesday that it has been purchased by a new owner.

The move sets the stage for a rivalry between the alt-weekly and a new local publication that has since absorbed some of its staff and is set to debut next week.

The sale of The Portland Phoenix closed on Tuesday night, the alt-weekly said Wednesday. It was sold to Portland News Club LLC, the owner of The Portland Daily Sun, a free newspaper. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

The Portland Phoenix's previous owner, Boston-based Phoenix Media/Communications Group, had been seeking a buyer since shutting down The Providence Phoenix, a sister publication, in October. It halted production of The Boston Phoenix last year.

Curtis Robinson, one of the alt-weekly's new owners, said in a prepared statement that his group decided to buy The Portland Phoenix after learning about its potential demise.

"This was really a chance to rally around a paper that is an institution of southern Maine culture," Robinson said. "I'm particularly pleased that a core group has decided to continue with us, despite what has been an uncertain world for print publishing."

The Portland Phoenix has since installed a new editor, Dan MacLeod, a Bucksport native and University of Southern Maine graduate who worked at the New York Post.

MacLeod said about half of the alt-weekly's sales staff has stayed on. "I don't think readers should expect radical changes," MacLeod said in a prepared statement. "Basically, you have a group of Phoenix fans who only want to build on 15 years of great work."

Meanwhile, the alt-weekly's former editor, Nick Schroeder, and some other former staff members have migrated to Dig Portland, a new alt-weekly that is being launched next week by a Boston publisher. The new publication was announced last month as The Portland Phoenix's previous owners were seeking a buyer. At the time, Dig Publishing Associate Publisher Marc Shepard said the timing was right.

"Beginning with the launch of the Casco Bay Weekly in 1988, Portland has been a welcoming home to the alt-weekly style of local media for over 25 years," Shepard, who had previously worked as The Portland Phoenix's associate publisher for 10 years, said in a prepared statement. "We're proud and extremely excited about the opportunity to keep that voice alive with Dig Portland."

When contacted Wednesday about the sale of The Portland Phoenix, Shepard was asked if two alt-weeklies could exist in the same greater Portland market.

"I really have no idea about that, but I'm confident that if we simply focus on our mission of serving Portland as the type of true alt-media voice it deserves, we won't have to worry about it," Shepard told Mainebiz in an email. "... Every person involved in Dig Portland is here because of our passion for this industry. We're in the alt-media business because we love it, and believe it's important."

MacLeod told the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday that competition is healthy and that Dig Portland and The Portland Phoenix will be pushed to produce solid journalism.

"[The Portland Phoenix] always has been, is and will continue to be the source for knowing what's going on," MacLeod told the newspaper. "I feel a big responsibility to keep that going. The Phoenix has been an incredible voice in southern Maine, and it's necessary."

Read more

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