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Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror goes digital first with new app

IM ACK

There's been a lot of talk in recent years about the consolidation of the newspaper industry and closing of small, yet critical, daily and weekly newspapers around the country.

The Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror recently bucked this trend, becoming locally-owned again in 2020 after several decades of being bought and sold by chains including Ottaway, News Corp, Gatehouse and Gannet.

The paper more recently launched a new digital app to provide readers with news as it breaks, instead of in weekly installments when the print edition comes out.

CAI's Kathryn Eident talked with editor and publisher Marianne Stanton about the changes.

Eident The paper has recently become an independent publication once again after being owned by several conglomerates. And you've been there for all of it. You started at the Inquirer and Mirror when your parents owned it, and you've been with it through many ownership changes in the decades since. Talk about how you were finally able to return the paper back to local ownership.

Stanton I had been looking for funders, local funders, to try to get it back into local ownership. It was largely unsuccessful for quite a while, but after the Gannett ownership, it really became evident that if we wanted to survive, we were going to need to go out.

And we were very fortunate in finding sources out there. Really, they just wanted Nantucket to retain its newspaper and have a voice. And you're seeing news deserts all across the country where newspapers disappear.

And so, in November of 2020, the newspaper was purchased by 41 North Media, and we entered into an agreement with the Community Foundation for Nantucket. So really, the newspaper is really a trust. We're not a not-for-profit; we are funded by our readers and advertisers but proceeds that we have go to the community foundation.

We had to do a lot of investing into the infrastructure of the newspaper, you know, and in people and in equipment, new computers after the sale. But it's been really exciting and really welcomed by the community here. And they feel really comfortable that they have their newspaper, and they can rely on it being there to report on all the important issues that are happening.

Eident It hasn't been easy to own and operate a print newspaper for a long time. What are some of the current challenges print media face in today's world?

Stanton Right now, recently, newsprint prices, paper prices. But since the pandemic, paper mills saw a reduction in demand for their product, both for glossy magazines and for newsprint. At the same time, they were seeing a rise in demand for packaging materials. So, there has been consolidation in the printing industry and the paper industry. And now, some of those paper mills have changed. They're producing packaging materials for Amazon because their business has skyrocketed. Some of the lessons from the pandemic are that, you know, as people change their buying habits, some of them start with going shopping online. So, we've really suffered from that. Your biggest costs in running a newspaper are people and paper.

Eident You're responding to some of the changes in the media landscape with launching a new digital initiative, which happened earlier this month. Tell us about it.

Stanton Last year we celebrated our 200th the anniversary, so we're 201. And I say that we have always responded to the changing needs of the marketplace. In 1995, we were the first weekly newspaper and have a web site, and now we have everybody receiving news wherever they are, their phones, their mobile devices.

When we purchased the paper, one of the things that we looked at was what did we do to migrate to the new reality and how people want to receive their news as news happens? You know, you can't wait seven days to post it.

So, we did a couple of things. First, we created a new app. You can get the e-edition or live on the I&M app. And then the other thing is we're launching our new digital edition, and that is as we have news, we'll post it. We've hired a guy who I worked for at Gannet/Gatehouse but was with the Boston Globe for 15 years before that, Robert Sauer. Because one of the effects in that corporate environment whenever you have to cut things, one of the things we cut was not having the circulation director in. So, it is a supported model. It's not all free, but quality journalism is free. It just is. So, I'm excited about it.

Eident It sounds like you're going digital first in a big way and you've made a big commitment to the community of Nantucket by bringing ownership of the paper back home to the island.

Stanton It's a great place to be, and we're really happy that we can do this for the community. You know, sometime down the line, printing plants will close and the world will all be digital. So, you know, we're getting ready for it now.

Eident One more thing and that is: Congratulations. You were recently awarded the Yankee Quill Award, a prestigious honor from the Academy of New England Journalists that recognizes journalists for their contributions to the free press and their work to improve the communities they serve. Just reading that description to you now, it sounds like you're a good fit for this honor.

Stanton Thank you very much. It was very exciting to hear that we all went up to Boston. Some of my kids were there and the staff I've worked with over the years. So it was very fun.

Eident Well, again, congratulations. Marianne Stanton, editor and publisher of The Nantucket Inquirer and Mirror, thanks for talking with us about what's been happening at the paper and the new app. Best of luck with everything.

Stanton Well, thank you so much. I appreciate the opportunity.

This interview was lightly edited for grammar and clarity.

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Local News Heard on CAI's Morning EditionNantuckettown
Kathryn Eident is an award-winning journalist and hosts WCAI's Morning Edition. She began producing stories for WCAI in 2008 as a Boston University graduate student reporting from the Statehouse. Since then, Kathryn’s work has appeared in the Boston Globe, Cape Cod Times, Studio 360, Scientific American, and Cape and Plymouth Business Magazine.