New Owner For Machias Valley News Observer

The Calais Advertiser would like to announce the addition of one of Maine's  oldest weeklies, the Machias Valley News Observer, to our  publishing family.  The MVNO has been bought by Pierre Little and the Toronto-based Richmond Group.

Little,  a New Brunswick native, is a partner and publisher of the Calais Advertiser. He is presently working on the worldwide digital transition of the newspaper business model for the Internet. A strategist and leading force for the contemporary growth of ad revenues in the publishing field, Little has yet to divulge definitive plans for the Machias weekly, but is forthright in his beliefs about community.

"Truth is an important aspect of my work," he says. "It's a commitment to the community, and a trust to the reader. The primary focus of this paper will be truth-seeking without any shyness or ambivalence."

On May 19th the acquisition closed with 162 years of this revered weekly transitioning into the next chapter of its lengthy life. It began when the Union was first published by George Parlin in 1852. These sparse pages would persevere through the Civil War and Reconstruction. A long line of Parlins would also become well-known  printers in the Machias area even as William Pattangall, a chief justice of Maine, acquired the Union. After Earle Parlin graduated from Machias High School in 1906 he went to work for Judge Pattangall at the paper and the Parlin presence resumed. Parlin remained a working force at the Machias Valley News until the mid-1950s. By 1955 he had turned the paper over to his son Francis Parlin.

Reorganizations and mergers were a big part of the MVNO's history.

The Republican, founded in 1856, would merge with the Union in 1922.  The Addison Observer was absorbed in 1932. Two years earlier Elmer Ingalls had become editor of a new five-column tabloid called the Machias Valley News. Parlin published both fledgling publications until he logically merged them into the Machias Valley News Observer on July 13, 1932.

 The Union Republican had earlier continued to operate under Henry Teague of the Teague Publishing Company. He and his wife were joint owners and editors of this paper at the site where Main Street Discount is now located. For more than a decade Machias was a two-weekly town until a fire on Center Street destroyed the printing plant of the Union Republican and the MVNO took over the operation, combining the two papers.

Relying largely on job-printing, Earle Parlin and his printing company, and later son Francis, were an integral part of the community, never aspiring to win any great awards, but intent on cranking out the nuts and bolts of life week after week. An old pool table damaged in the Masonic Hall fire and two candy slabs discarded from the Chandler block provided the working surface for the composition of the paper at its Broadway office until the 1980s.

Following Earle Parlin's death, Jay Hinson and Gene Townsend acquired the MVNO from  Parlin's widow. Hinson, owner of the Calais Advertiser, could not know that his role 47 years  later would parallel that of Little and company, now also owners of both papers. The Hinson-Townsend first edition on October 25, 1967 dominated the front page, announcing

"Machias Valley News Observer Changes Hands."

The two Calais businessmen retained their editorial staff, with Hinson as a former bureau chief for the Bangor Daily News and a renowned photographer, bolstering the paper's use of photos. Coverage was enhanced with the MVNO now appearing in a seven-column format and growing to eight pages. It wasn't until 1975 that the paper appeared in a more contemporary five-column format. By then news encompassed about 40% of the paper with advertising accounting for 60%.

The paper observed its 150th birthday in 2002, with Gov. Angus King declaring September to be Machias Valley News Observer 150th Anniversary Month. Generations of families, obstacles, businesses and history have touched its life and modified the character of this oldest non-stop business in Machias. "Your place in history is a source of great pride to all who respect a free press," said Machias Savings Bank in its 150th anniversary wishes. "Years before the Civil War your newspaper was printing the news. One edition in April 1869 promoted the planting of wheat as a fashionable crop ... and also informed a curious readership about a new bank in town ..."

There are those people who devoted most of their working lives to the operation of the MVNO. Certainly Earle Parlin is in those rarified ranks, but probably Llewellyn Maker aka "Mike" with 46 years on the job gets top honors. Linotypist, pressman, foreman and often a one-man-show, Maker is remembered by many old-timers.

Townsend died several years ago. His widow and co-publisher Pat Townsend, maintains her home in Calais. Hinson, 92, now resides in the veterans' home in Machias. For the past 9 years Karen Hinson has been publisher and editor of the MVNO. They have been critical years, the culmination of an extraordinary journey. Forging forward through history, from a four-page letterpress broadsheet to becoming a pioneering presence in the Internet age has been an incredible accomplishment, accompanied by the hardships of doing business in rural Maine.

"I am pleased to know that the oldest business in Machias will continue to be here for this remarkable community," said Karen Hinson as the paper changed hands. "It has always been my hope that this community service would continue, and change, and grow, with the support and expertise of the next generation of news media. I am now confident that it will."