The Enduring Legacy of the Quoddy Tides, the Most Easterly Published Newspaper in the U.S.

Small-town papers aren’t nearly as numerous as they once were, but the few survivors are as vital to their communities as ever.

The Quoddy Tides newspaper
Photo by Dave Waddell
By Nora Saks
From our March 2024 issue

The Quoddy Tides is indeed The Most Easterly Published Newspaper in the U.S., as its tagline declares. But the paper is notable for more than that. Based in Eastport, it has subscribers in all 50 states, despite a total print circulation of only 4,000. It covers stories not just in eastern Washington County but the Canadian Maritimes too, lending a certain international flair. And most impressively: as so many other small-town papers have petered out, done in by digital media, dwindling ad revenue, declining populations, and a host of other challenges, the Quoddy Tides has endured.

Winifred B. French founded the paper in 1968, after a pair of other local papers folded, even though she had no prior experience in publishing. The first issue came out a day late, because on a long, snowy drive to the printer, in Blue Hill, Winifred slid off the road, suffering a broken nose and a pair of shiners. From then on, “the news should come in and go out as regularly as the tides,” she wrote in a promise to readers.

“My mother felt that a newspaper really would provide a voice for the people living around Passamaquoddy Bay,” says her son, Edward, who recently took time to chat about the past and present of the paper. His first job there was punching out mailing labels on an old Addressograph machine, and now he’s the editor and publisher. The 64-year-old still gets the paper out on time no matter what. Even the notorious 1998 ice storm down east didn’t stop the Quoddy Tides. “We had to do all the labels and everything by candlelight and by hand,” he says. “But we’ve never missed an issue.”

Has the paper’s mission evolved over time?

I think we’ve become much more interested in investigative reporting, covering the debate over coal-fired power plants, oil refineries, and a number of tribal issues. We’ve tracked the ups and downs in the fisheries and aquaculture and written a number of in-depth stories about environmental concerns related to fish farming, which I don’t think other newspapers were paying attention to. It’s always about more than just presenting both sides of a story. You need to spend the time to really get at the truth of the matter too. With the limited resources we have, to me, it makes sense to really look at the issues that are holding back our communities and the solutions to them, so that we can work together to help make our communities better places.

Have challenges for the business changed too?

Well, production was always a logistical challenge. In the past, our correspondents had to mail their news copy to our office in Eastport, and a ferry or fishing boat would transport it to and from Deer Island [in New Brunswick], where it was typeset. Then, my mother would drive the paste-ups down to the printer and hand deliver hard copies to all the towns and newsstand outlets. We of course have email and computers at this point, but we still use the Ellsworth American’s printer and have to go down and pick up the actual copies. Nowadays, there are so many other sources of information competing for readers’ attention, and I’m a bit of a neo-Luddite, so we don’t have much of a website. Eventually, though, we’ll have a complete digital edition — behind a paywall. We make an investment in reliable reporting, and I believe that’s something people should pay for.

What do you think has kept it going for all these years?

Partly a lot of hard work, ensuring that the news we’re providing is accurate, unbiased, and relevant to the lives of the people we serve. Newspapers, particularly in this day and age, have to earn the trust of their readers. It’s not a given anymore. You have to get to know the people who live here and the issues that matter to them, then write about them in a fair and balanced way. That’s why having freelance writers who live in the community is important, because they know what’s going on. With a small newspaper, you hear from your readers, you hear from everyone you meet on the street. If you haven’t gotten something quite right, you’ll find out very quickly. And when I walk down the street, I always figure that if not more than half the people cross to the other side, then you’re still okay.

The Quoddy Tides hits newsstands in and around Eastport — population 1,300 — on the second and fourth Friday of every month. Single copies cost $1.75, a small price to pay to support local journalism.

From our special “Welcome to Small Town, Maine” feature, highlighting some of the challenges and charms of small-town life and people who are passionate about their tight-knit communities. Find a few “Welcome to Small Town, Maine” stories here on the website, and pick up a copy of our March 2024 issue to read them all!

April 2024, Down East Magazine

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