All MPA member newspapers have now been contacted with the results of the 2014 Better Newspaper Contest. We’re still awaiting comments from Judges on a number of categories, but the majority of notifications have been received and forwarded on to the applicable Contest contact at your newspaper. We’ll be sure to update newspapers with additional results as they become available.

A full day of events is planned for the MPA’s Fall Conference on Oct. 18, including editorial round-table discussions, a photo & video Help Desk, and advertising sessions focused on keeping it fresh and what’s hot in digital. Full session descriptions are below:

Keeping it Fresh Roundtable (editorial)
How many times can you cover the same meeting, annual event, or similar events, without boring yourself and your readers to tears? Do you cover the 4th of July fireworks with just a photo or do you ask some folks what they think is so special about the occasion? Been to your 100th Baked Bean Supper? Who there will share the secret family recipe? Town council fighting over the budget again? Hard to make readers care when the reporter obviously doesn’t. This session will collect concerns and frustrations from participants and share ways others have found to keep the pages of our papers and websites fresh and interesting. Moderated by Earl Brechlin, Editor, Mount DesertIslander

Photo & Video Help Desk
The doctors are in! Have a nagging question about the best way to approach a visual assignment? Do wish you knew what all those buttons on your camera did? Do you need a better digital workflow? Wondering what’s the best way to get rid of ‘camera shake’ in your videos? Do you just want to talk shop and pick the brains of Maine’s best photojournalists? Now you can. Maine Press Associating Vice President Troy R. Bennett has assembled a crack team of the Pine Tree State’s best shooters. They’ll be on hand all morning to answer questions, brainstorm solutions and shoot the breeze. If they can’t guide you to an answer, nobody can.

Going Digital: Managing Change in a 21st Century Newsroom (editorial)
Editors and journalists: Do you sometimes find yourself saying, “there’s got to be a better way, I just don’t know what it is? Newsrooms, and the way news is produced, is changing at a rapid rate. It’s no longer enough to create excellent journalism on a deadline. Considerations must also be made for print, web, social media, mobile apps and multimedia tie-ins when assigning and crafting a story—sometimes simultaneously. How are you navigating this change? Who is responsible for what? How has this changed the production process and what resources have you found to help you? What HAS worked in your newsroom—or better yet—what HASN’t worked? Come and share your experiences and learn from others who are also grappling with these issues.

Keeping It Fresh (advertising)
Tired of that same old special section? Can’t bear the thought of gearing up to sell another county fair bannered page? Come to this session to hear and share ideas on how to freshen up your approach to selling advertising. Bringing new ideas to customers is the best way to position yourself as a marketing expert and someone who cares about the results you generate for your customer.

What’s Hot in Digital (advertising)
Mobile optimized websites, SEO, SEM, retargeting – what digital products are advertisers buying? What’s working and what’s next? Also tips for creating cross-channel packages and experiences for your customers.

A full day of events is planned for the MPA’s Fall Conference on Oct. 18, including editorial round-table discussions, a photo & video Help Desk, and advertising sessions focused on keeping it fresh and what’s hot in digital (see accompanying article).
The conference registration form can be downloaded from the MPA’s website:http://mainepress.wordpress.com/. Registration deadline is September 26.
We’re compiling the last of the judges’ comments for the 2014 Maine Press Association Better Newspaper contest and plan to begin notifying winners later this week.
Meanwhile, The Hilton Garden Inn Auburn Riverwatch is taking room reservations for MPA members and guests. The MPA has a special group rate of $129 a night, good for the nights of Oct. 17-18. The deadline for room reservations is September 26.
To make reservations online, go to auburnriverwatch.hgi.comand use group/convention code: MEPRSS or call the hotel directly at 207-784-4433 and ask for the ME Press Association group rate.

BIDDEFORD — Bruce Hardina was recently named publisher of the Journal Tribune in Biddeford. Hardina most recently served as publisher and editor of the Coastal Journal in Bath, a free weekly newspaper serving the southern Midcoast region.

He is originally from Long Island, New York. He discovered Maine while traveling the country back in the 1970s, and “fell in love with our great state,” he said. In 1999, he and his wife Elaine made Maine their home. Hardina has relocated to Biddeford from Nobleboro and began working for the Journal Tribune Friday, Aug. 1.

“This part of our state is really exciting, and I am thrilled to be here and working for the county’s only daily newspaper,” he said. “I love the newspaper business, and I’ve already met some really nice, genuine people.”

In addition to his professional experience, Hardina is also a lifelong singer-songwriter who plays guitar and said he likes to fish, hike, write, eat great seafood and “accomplish great things.” He has an 11-year-old daughter whom he adores, he said.

Sample News Group is a family-owned publishing company with other newspapers and printing operations located in Maine, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Hardina is replacing veteran publisher Jim Freeland, who has been promoted to regional manager for Sample News Group New England.

American’s Serialized Murder Mystery Has a Different Author for Each Chapter

By Stephen Fay

ELLSWORTH — It started in November of 2013 as a kooky idea. Nine months later, the idea has become reality and it’s still kooky: a 15-chapter murder mystery set in Ellsworth with each succeeding chapter written by a different volunteer author.

“Murder at the Black House” will be serialized in The Ellsworth American’s new weekly magazine section, The Ellsworth American Extra. The Extra, available only to subscribers, will be launched in the Aug. 7 edition of the newspaper.

Scott Shields of Ellsworth came up with the notion of a serialized novel by an ensemble cast of authors. In a Nov. 1, 2013, letter to Managing Editor Stephen Fay, Shields wrote that “the idea is to provide an ongoing fictional story (serial) that takes place in the Ellsworth area. I realize that this has been done before but I think this is unique in that
there will be multiple writers (a new writer for each chapter, continuing the story from where the previous author ends).”

Fay, Publisher Alan Baker and General Manager Terry Carlisle were intrigued. Coincidentally, The American management was early in the planning stage of a magazine section that would be included only in subscriber editions of the paper. The thought was to reward current subscribers for their loyalty and to entice non-subscribers to sign up.

Extra inducement: drop the price of a subscription from $42 to $29 and throw in a digital subscription at no extra charge. Extra-extra inducement: raise the price of a newsstand copy from $1 to $2.

The American ran a calling-all-writers notice in the Nov. 21 edition of the paper. A session would be held at the Ellsworth Public Library Dec. 11, 2013, to determine whether there was interest in Shields’ idea. Nineteen individuals, aged 20-something to 70-odd, showed up. The project was launched.

For the next nine months, the writers group met once and sometimes twice a week at The American. A plot and a stable of characters were hashed out, though it was slow going at first. Eventually, the group settled on a mystery set in contemporary Ellsworth.

The protagonist would be a young woman. There would be a murder, curious clues and romance. Joshua Torrance, executive director of Woodlawn and the Black House Museum invited the group up for a mid-winter meeting. He discussed the history of the Black House to a rapt audience of aspiring novelists. The Black House became a major player in subsequent discussions.

Turnout at the meetings fell off over time, which is normal, but a core group kept the faith: Sandy Cohen, Elizabeth Delano, Jenny King, Monica Giordano, Diane Gallagher, Michelle Knowlton, Mac Herrling, Andrea St. George Jones and Scott Shields.

Each took a chapter. For reasons of space, Fay set a maximum of 1,500 words per chapter. Gallagher went first with Chapter 1, then Herrling, then St. George Jones and so on. A few authors had to write an additional chapter when it became clear the story arc would carry through to 15 chapters.

Halfway through the writing process, Sullivan artist Mary Welsh dropped by The American to see if the paper had any interest in an editorial cartoonist. She brought samples of her previously published work. Based on the quality of her drawings, she was offered the job of volunteer illustrator. Welsh’s drawings of the characters and scenes appear in each of the 15 chapters. Ellsworth American Page Designer David Fickett evolved a design that works in images of the Black House.

Publisher Baker is enthusiastic about the process. He notes that magazines in Europe and the United States serialized novels in the early part of the 20th century — though serialized authorship is a new twist.

Will The American venture back into serialized novel publication in the future? “We’d like to,” Baker said. “This has been a lot of fun. Let’s see what the readers think.”

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