Maine Newspapers Sold to U.S. Rep.'s Husband04:47
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Chellie Pingree, member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maine's 1st district. Her husband Donald Sussman recently acquired Maine's largest media company. (U.S. Congress)
Chellie Pingree, member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Maine's 1st district. Her husband Donald Sussman recently acquired Maine's largest media company. (U.S. Congress)

Last month Donald Sussman, a billionaire hedge fund manager and left-leaning philanthropist, acquired a 75 percent share of Maine's largest media company, MaineToday Media.

It's good news for workers at the three papers he now owns-- it will bring an infusion of cash.

But its raising questions for readers and reporters.

That's because Sussman is also married to Maine's U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree.

Sussman said that he has no interest in impacting editorial content in any of the company's newspapers — the Portland Press Herald, the Morning Sentinel, and the Kennebec Journal.

Rick Edmonds, Media Business Analyst at The Poynter Institute, told Here & Now's Robin Young that Sussman says there will be some barrier between reporters and his wife.

"He's indicated that there will be a firewall of sorts and he's certainly not buying the paper to support his wife's political career. And there's going to be some pretty close scrutiny about whether the coverage is fair," he said.

Edmonds says Sussman's purchase of MaineToday Media, and it's three newspapers, is only the one example of media buy-outs.

Newsweek: Purchased By Sydney Harman in 2010

In 2010, audio electronics pioneer Sydney Harman bought Newsweek from The Washington Post Company for $1 and agreed to take on its millions of dollars' worth of financial obligations.

At the time, his wife Jane was serving her seventh term as U.S. Rep. from California's 36th District. After Sidney's death in 2011, Jane — who had already retired from Congress two months' prior — assumed his position on the Newsweek board. The former Rep. has a rocky history with issues of free press. While still in office, she called for "limits on press immunity" after the New York Times published an article detailing her conversations with a suspected Israeli agent, which were recorded by a National Security Agency wiretap.

The Washington Post and The Omaha World-Herald: Purchased By Warren Buffet

Warren Buffet, billionaire investor and philanthropist, started buying stock in The Washington Post Company in 1973, causing the Securities and Exchange Commission to open an investigation into possible conflict of interest the following year.

No charges were filed. Buffet was a member of the Post Company's board of directors until January, just after his company purchased his hometown newspaper, The Omaha World-Herald, and its holdings for $200 million. One publisher told the New York Times that The Buffalo News, which Buffet has owned since the late 70s, might as well be run by someone else; Buffet doesn't get involved "at all."

Philadelphia Inquirer: Purchased by Ed Rendell

Former Penn. Governor Ed Rendell was an early member of the group of investors that bought The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com at the beginning of April. Rendell left the group after criticism that his involvement would skew its news coverage. Rendell told Politico that he will continue to "whisper in their ear" but have no formal connection with the newspaper.

Guest:

  • Rick Edmonds, Media Business Analyst at The Poynter Institute

This segment aired on April 12, 2012.

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