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Harvard Press seeks new local stewards

The Harvard Press, founded 15 years ago by public-spirited residents to provide comprehensive news of the community while reviving small-town journalism in Harvard, is seeking new owners.

Co-owners Sue Robbins and Lisa Aciukewicz announced to the staff late last week they were ready to begin a search for new owners immediately to carry on the tradition of the Press.

“We have created an award-winning newspaper that is an integral part of life in Harvard, and we hope to find new stewards for its next 20 years,” they said in a joint statement to the staff and community. “We are seeking the same brand of local and independent ownership that has taken the Press through its first 15 years.” (See “It’s time to pass the torch,” page 3.)

In an interview, Robbins and Aciukewicz said they were ready to help new owners step into the management of a business that is currently for-profit and subscriber-driven, or work with them to create a new nonprofit, trust-based or other next-generation publishing model. They have not set a timetable for their search nor an asking price.

The push for a transition is not new. Co-founder Worth Robbins, who was 78 when he died Feb. 11, often talked of the need for a succession plan and of finding a new generation of leaders capable of maintaining what the Harvard Press team, including its financial backers, had all helped build.

The paper’s total weekly paid circulation encompasses nearly two-thirds of the town’s 2,000 households. The publication and its website deliver a steady diet of town and community news: breaking news, the work of local government and schools, arts and cultural events, athletics, the town’s abundant natural habitats, births, marriages, and deaths. The paper serves as a community forum, publishing community-authored columns, opinion pieces and letters, and it covers the forces that affect the vibrant mix of young and maturing families and seniors who populate this historical New England town.

Nationally recognized award-winner

The Harvard Press has won awards for news coverage and for photography from the New England Newspaper & Press Association. It recently published a series of articles casting light on “microaggressions” experienced by minority students in its school system, a system perennially ranked among the best public schools in the state and the country.

The Press was also recognized nationally in a profile by author James Fallows in the October 2019 issue of The Atlantic magazine. The article, “We’re Doing It for Love of Community,” was part of a series on the state of local journalism and on publications whose approaches to journalism were different from those pursued by corporate and private equity chains focused on maximizing profits through consolidation, staff cuts, and even shutdowns. The results have created local “news deserts” in communities across the country. It happened in Harvard 19 years ago, Aciukewicz and Robbins said, when The Harvard Post, which served the community with distinction from 1973 until its sale 30 years later to a newspaper chain in 2003, experienced a dissolution that led to its shutdown 10 years later.

The Atlantic’s Fallows, in addition to praising the Press’ relentless local coverage of the community by a small and committed staff of local writers, editors, and photographers, also acknowledged the commitment of its “sustaining subscribers,” now numbering more than 350, who have chosen to pay $100 and more per year to support the mission of the Press in lieu of paying the regular $40 annual subscription rate.

“We’ve lived through the experience of having a great paper and losing it, and we do not want to let that happen again,” publisher Worth Robbins had told Fallows.

Robbins and Aciukewicz, said they want to ensure the Press continues its tradition of excellence as a locally and independently owned publication. They invite anyone who shares that vision to contact them at publisher@harvardpress.net.

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