Raising The Anchor

May 7, 2021

Bob Anderson is not a trained journalist. He is a fisherman by trade. But for 22 years he successfully published a monthly newspaper in Harpswell, Maine, called the Anchor.

Sadly though, after the pandemic arrived and most happenings in this fishing community on Casco Bay were put on hold, Anderson decided to stop the presses. That was in October. But by the end of 2020, a group of residents felt the loss of their community news source was too big of a blow, and started working on a way to bring the Anchor back to life.

One of those residents is Doug Warren, who grew up about 12 miles away in Brunswick, Maine, went to Brunswick High School and now lives on the property his family has owned on Orr’s Island for more than 100 years. 

Oh, and Warren also just happens to be an accomplished 32-year veteran of the newspaper business, spending time at The Portland Press Herald, The Miami Herald and The Boston Globe (where he had the pleasure of taking Marty Baron to his very first Red Sox game) before eventually moving back to Harpswell.

In a short amount of time, Warren and this group of concerned residents were able to put together enough funds to purchase from Anderson the name, archives, website and other pieces of the now-defunct Anchor, and are planning to revive it as a nonprofit publication by the end of this month.

Anderson’s Anchor basically was a one-man operation for a few decades. He had an office assistant and a few freelancers at any given time, but he made it all happen, according to Warren.

“Untrained as he might have been, he kept the focus on the nature of the fishing community that Harpswell is, and made an effort to publish what he considered to be the positive stories of the community,” Warren said. “There were a lot of nice features, and it was fairly good quality journalism, I would say.”

Anderson didn’t solicit ads. People brought them to him. But as most rural journalists know, it is hard to run a business that way. That’s where folks like Janice Thompson come in to play for the new Anchor. She’s a Harpswell Center resident and career fundraising professional.

With help from Thompson and more than a dozen other residents, enough funds were raised — about $30,000 — to get the paper back in business, this time as a 501(c)3. Well, it eventually will have its own nonprofit status. But until the application is approved, the Holbrook Community Foundation agreed to be its fiscal sponsor, meaning the Anchor can accept tax-deductible gifts immediately.

Going forward, the group plans to fund the publication through a combination of advertising, donations and grants.

The new group sent a survey to every household in the area asking for feedback on a number of subjects, including what types of stories they want to see the Anchor cover going forward. They got about 600 surveys back so far, which was a pleasant surprise.

“People have strong opinions on what they want to see,” Warren said.

One thing was certain — residents wanted the print version of the publication to continue. It makes sense. This is a fishing community and a retirement community and, as Warren said, it is the “oldest median age town in the oldest median age state.”

But the new Anchor also will have a new website, and it will contain a lot more timely news and information than the previous version, which only housed archives of the print edition. 

To do that, a staff will be needed. The first step is hiring an editor. If you’re interested, the job description is online and the pay will be between $35,000 and $50,000. 

Until a full-time editor is hired, Warren will fill the void. He hopes someone will be hired within the next month or two.

“I want to get the job filled as quickly as possible,” he said. “Hopefully soon I’ll go back to my big-picture advisory board role that I’m so much more comfortable in now.”

In the early days of the Anchor, Anderson had a clamming license, and he would head out and dig clams in order to get money to pay for the paper.

The new owners dug into their own pockets in order to get the Anchor up and running again, and hope the community will continue to dig into theirs to keep it going for years to come.

“The community is excited about it and interested,” Warren said. “Hopefully they’ll support it financially.”