Mainer is Born!

Introduction to the inaugural issue

Welcome to the inaugural issue of Mainer! For those of you who may be wondering, Yes, this is the new incarnation of The Bollard. We have a new name, new ownership, some great new writers, and our new website is being developed this summer, at mainernews.com. The site launches this Labor Day, and will feature much more content than The Bollard was able to publish online or in print. This free monthly magazine, which is also expanding, will always be available at all the places you previously picked up The Bollard, plus many new locations as we continue to grow our circulation this year.

As I wrote in last month’s issue, Mainer is published by the Mainer News Cooperative, a worker-owned media company founded by editor-at-large Crash Barry and me. We are technically what’s known as a multi-stakeholder cooperative — or, as they call them in Quebec, where this type of cooperative is common, a solidarity cooperative. In our case, this means that in addition to full- and part-time workers, our regular freelance contributors (a second type of stakeholder) are also part of the team that guides the business and shares the profits. This arrangement is similar to, say, a store that is owned by its employees and by the individual producers whose goods are always available at the store.

Mainer is owned by the workers and powered by the people — supported not only by advertising from local businesses, but by readers like you who appreciate this publication and want independent journalism to thrive in Maine. You can sign up to become a Mainer subscriber today at mainernews.com. Subscribers get all sorts of perks — like early access to the podcasts we’ll be posting on the site, bonus content, and the ability to join our online reader forum. Most importantly, you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that you are making Mainer’s work possible — empowering local watchdog journalism that challenges powerful people and institutions on behalf of workaday Mainers, and that celebrates the best Maine music, art, food and cultural happenings.

I am so grateful for the outpouring of support this publication has received since we announced Mainer last month. Both our readers and advertisers have stepped up big-time, and the result is already apparent: this 56-page inaugural issue, the largest issue we’ve published in over a decade! This is what happens when you become a subscriber — you get more of the type of content you’ve been enjoying all these years.

And we’re just getting started. As more readers become subscribers this summer, we’ll be growing our team to include staff reporters, an arts editor and advertising representatives. We’ll also be bringing more freelance contributors aboard, including new writers, artists, photographers, podcasters and filmmakers.

We are thrilled to have Jessie Lacey on the team now! Jessie’s cocktail column, Amateur Hour, ran for years in another monthly publication owned by the conglomerate that dominates the state’s media industry, Masthead Maine. Another ex-Masthead employee, Andy O’Brien (of O’Chang Comics fame, and formerly managing editor of Rockland’s Free Press), had a great piece in last month’s issue about early Maine muckracker Jeremiah Hacker. Andy is teaming up with fellow writer and researcher Will Chapman to produce a new series on the radicals and oddballs of our state’s history that will debut later this summer.

This month’s cover story, “Portland’s War on Fun,” is a prime example of the type of reporting you can expect from Mainer— in-depth, long-form investigative journalism that exposes bad actors and bullshit and points a way forward toward better solutions for all.

When I interviewed Dock Fore owner Shaun McCarthy about the pending demise of the Old Port Festival, he made a comment that unnerved me. He said he’d been talking with a customer about Portland Downtown’s decision to kill the event and wondering why more people weren’t upset about it. “Nobody reads the newspaper anymore,” this customer said to Shaun. “How many people do you think even saw that this is the last Old Port Festival?”

Portland’s daily paper did run an article about the festival’s end, but they took Portland Downtown Executive Director Casey Gilbert’s nonsense explanation as to why it’s being discontinued (that it’s somehow “achieved its mission”) at face value. Neither the reporter nor the editors pushed Gilbert or the organization’s board, which really calls the shots, for an explanation that makes sense. And no one bothered to leave the office and walk around the Old Port to speak with the people most directly impacted by the decision.

It’s exactly this sort of intellectual laziness and deferential attitude toward people in power that has caused the newspaper to lose readers in droves over the years. I expect the editors would defend their coverage by saying no one’s spoken up to object to the festival’s end, but that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy if you make no effort to find them and present Gilbert’s horseshit response as if were a valid observation of the truth.

Like I said, we’re just getting warmed up here at Mainer. Join us at mainernews.com today and let’s really get this party started!