When the largest daily newspaper in Maine decided it was going to stop publishing regional book reviews, it caused an uproar among local writers — one local writer in particular.
Stephen King, the best-selling author from Bangor, Maine, complained on Twitter that the newspaper was taking away the publicity that local writers depend on “to buy bread and milk” and called on his more than 5 million followers to take action.
“Retweet this if you’re from Maine (or even if you’re not),” he tweeted on Friday. “Tell the paper DON’T DO THIS.”
The newspaper, The Portland Press Herald, promptly responded with a challenge: If King could get his followers to buy 100 digital subscriptions, it would bring back the local reviews.
“We’d be willing to bet a retweet by @StephenKing would get us over the threshold,” the newspaper tweeted on Saturday morning.
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By Sunday, The Press Herald had doubled its goal, with about 200 new subscriptions in less than 48 hours, Lisa DeSisto, chief executive of MaineToday Media, which publishes The Press Herald, said Sunday. The newspaper pledged to continue the reviews of books about Maine or by Maine authors.
The exchange also highlighted the financial pressures facing local newspapers.
As The Press Herald assessed its finances for 2019, an editor sent a notice to freelance writers who wrote the regional book reviews, informing them that the newspaper could no longer fund their work. “Like many newspapers, we had to make some tough decisions on what we could continue to support,” DeSisto said.
But local writers immediately — and vocally — lamented the decision.
“Local coverage in the largest circulation newspaper in the state is crucial to them and their publishers,” said Joshua Bodwell, executive director of the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. His organization started a petition asking the newspaper to reconsider its decision and also contacted King.
Members of the staff at The Press Herald spotted King’s tweet within minutes, DeSisto said, and quickly put together a promotional deal that offered a 12-week subscription for just $ 15 (U.S.). The promotion codes — “King” and “Carrie” — were an ode to the author and his breakthrough horror novel.
“This deal is scary good,” DeSisto wrote on Twitter.