The Bangor Daily News Beefs Up
These days, when a newspaper announces staffing changes, it usually means layoffs, cutbacks and reductions. The Bangor Daily News appears to be the exception to that trend.
On August 8, the Bangor paper posted the news it was expanding not only the territory it covers, but the depth with which it covers it. The BDN has added one new reporter, former Maine Journalist of the Year Seth Koenig, lured away from the financially ailing Times Record in Brunswick. Koenig will cover Greater Portland, the first time the Bangor Daily has had a full-time reporter assigned to Maine’s most populous city (although business reporter Matt Wickenheiser also operates from there). In addition, Christopher Cousins, whose beat had been mid-Maine, will now cover the southern mid-coast, including the Bath-Brunswick area.
The BDN also moved two reporters out of sports to cover municipal beats and shifted one other employee from the display desk to reporting. It also added a photographer in southern Maine, although that position appears to be primarily concerned with soft features.
In response to concerns raised on the paper’s Website that the changes meant the BDN would be putting less emphasis on its hometown and northern Maine, online editor William Davis posted this: “The new positions won't negatively affect the quality of reporting in Bangor. We've actually added positions in Greater Bangor, as well. … But there are important stories coming from Southern Maine that affect the entire state, so we can best serve our readership if we have reporters in as many locations as possible.”
The most important change may not be the added newsroom staff, but the creation of a new position at the paper called “managing editor for investigative reporting and new initiatives.” The slot will be filled by Susan Young, who’s shifting from her post as editorial-page editor. (Her assistant Tom Groening will take over her old job.) In his announcement of the changes, editor-in-chief Mike Dowd promised the Bangor Daily would “dig deeper into issues Mainers need to know about, especially government operations at all levels.”
In the past couple of years, the BDN has produced some exceptional pieces of investigative journalism, but they’ve been infrequent and sometimes lacked follow-up. That situation now appears to be changing for the better. As a person familiar with the new alignment put it, “I'm confident that the new emphasis on investigative reporting will be noticed. This isn't just blather.”
The other significant change is an increased emphasis on the online product. According to Dowd, “The BDN’s new digital desk is the editing hub through which all content flows swiftly and is routed to mobile, Web, other electronic devices and to print.”
As one Bangor Daily staffer explained in an email, “The number of readers of the Website has been increasing steadily and significantly. The way we see it, it's a sign that people all over Maine favor the BDN for its quality and Web-first attitude so we're trying to grow our footprint.”
Nobody was willing to say it – even off the record – but it appears the Bangor Daily is mounting a frontal attack on the Portland Press Herald, particularly in competing for online readers. How will the Portland paper, already faced with declining circulation and anemic web numbers, respond?
Will it respond at all?
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com.