Kesich also says the company's board will be reconstituted to accommodate Sussman's new position. It will still have seven members, and the unions will not lose any seats, Kesich says.
With the cash infusion, other changes may occur, including changes to reporting duties. The paper is planning to begin employing local correspondents, Bell says, who will be union-member part-time staffers that cover their communities closely, at meetings and other events. "We've fallen behind on local coverage," Bell admits. Help with more routine duties could free up full-time reporters to do larger projects and more significant stories.
What many in the newsroom are talking about are the ethical quandaries posed by having such a prominent, powerful, politically active investor in the company. It's a fairly new conversation, despite major local players like local real-estate mogul Robert C.S. "Bobby" Monks and his cousin, financial-services player John P.M. Higgins having backed the paper since 2010. They are part of the extended Sprague family of Cape Elizabeth, and are both active in local business, charity, and other pursuits.
Their ownership has been disclosed sporadically, and infrequently, in Press Herald articles. With Sussman on board, Bell says, "We need to at a minimum be transparent and mention his role in the newspaper," suggesting that failures to do so with Monks and Higgins are the result of management intervention and not omission of facts by reporters or copy editors.
Sussman's prominence has raised the idea of the company hiring an ombudsman to critique and comment publicly on transparency issues, along the lines of similar positions at the New York Times and the Washington Post.
"We'd welcome an outside critic to evaluate us. We think that would help give the public some assurance that we're doing our jobs," Bell says. He says he sees no difference in ethical concerns stemming from the union's role in attracting Sussman's investment, as distinct from any that would arise from his involvement by other means.
"If we feel that we're being leaned on in any way, we're going to be vocal," Bell says, including bringing the issue to the company's board of directors, as well as taking other steps (which could include withholding their bylines). He looks at the alternative — which is indeed the future, since he admits HM Capital, as an equity firm seeking profits, will sell "someday." "We could be owned by a corporation from another state." Instead, "we're going to have owners that are really here in the community and are business leaders . . . I think Mainers would rather the papers be owned by Mainers," even if that means additional attention to disclosing interconnections between the paper and other parts of Maine's small community.