In a political world in which power flows through the words of the media, major changes are taking shape in the media world of Maine.
Politically, Main is a divided state, in which Republicans such as U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and Democrats such as Gov. Janet Mills each hold office. The state went big for President Joe Biden in 2020, with a stark dividing line between coastal and inland communities.
Into that swing state comes a major force — the Soros-backed National Trust for Local News, which has purchased about two dozen of Maine’s small daily and weekly newspapers, according to Semafor, which describe George Soros’ Open Society Foundation and the philanthropist Hansjörg Wyss as playing major roles in putting many of Maine’s newspapers under the Trust’s control.
Semafor’s report said that a representative of the Open Society committed money specifically for the project, while a source Semafor relied upon for its report said both it and Wyss put up millions to swing the deal.
Semafor also noted that the left is not the only one active in Maine. Conservative Leonard Leo is seeking to invest to bolster The Main Wire, a conservative voice on the Maine media scene.
Max Tani, who wrote Semafor’s piece, said there could be a danger in the mass purchase.
“It’s impossible to argue against saving local newspapers. But at a time when trust in the news media is at a low, the secrecy around the National Trust’s funding raises questions about the sustainability of a nonprofit model that often depends on relatively few big donors,” he wrote.
The piece added a contrary opinion from Michael Socolow, a media historian and journalism professor at the University of Maine.
“I think the person who writes the checks is ultimately less important than the quality of the news provided,” Socolow said.
“Look at the Wall Street Journal: It’s owned by Rupert Murdoch yet its journalists were awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2019 for revealing Donald Trump’s hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign,” he said.
Wyss has a background in news tailed to the liberal persuasion, according to the Daily Caller.
He supports States Newsroom, a network of news outlets initially begun by the liberal Hopewell Fund, it reported.
Soros also dabbles in media ownership, according to a Media Research Center report.
“Since 2003, Soros has spent more than $52 million funding media properties, including the infrastructure of news — journalism schools, investigative journalism and even industry organizations,” it said.
The report noted that all this gives Soros-backed outlets some collective clout.
“Every month, reporters, writers, and bloggers at the many outlets Soros funds — from big players like NPR to the little-known Project Syndicate and Public News Service, both of which claim to reach millions of readers — easily reach more than 332 million people around the globe. The population of the entire United States is less than 310 million,” the report said.