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MEDIA WATCH - Current expansion continues

Current Publishing, a local newspaper company based in Scarborough, has announced two major developments in the past three weeks. Just today, on the company's Web site (aggregating content from all of its newspapers), is an announcement that the company has bought the Monument newspaper in Gray. And on April 18, the company announced the launch of the Weekly Observer, a weekly tabloid which will cover Sanford, Springvale, Acton, and Lebanon.

In the text of the story online, and in a story published in the Monument this week and provided by Elizabeth Prata, founder, publisher, and editor of the Monument, the combination is described as a merger, though the headline on the Current Publishing site says "Current Publishing Purchases The Monument Newspaper," and Prata confirmed that her paper had been bought.

Current Publishing (full disclosure: my employer before I came to the Phoenix) started in the fall of 2001 with the Current, a paid-circulation weekly broadsheet covering Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth. In mid-2002, the company bought the American Journal, a longstanding and well-known weekly based in Westbrook, and took that (already paid-circ) paper into a broadsheet format. In late 2003, the company nearly simultaneously launched the Lakes Region Weekly and bought the Suburban News, combining them into one paid-circ broadsheet called the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly.

In 2004, the company bought the Waterboro Reporter, a free total-market-coverage tabloid. And in early 2005, they launched the Saco-Old Orchard Beach Sun Chronicle, a paid-circ broadsheet, and the Sacopee Valley Citizen, a free TMC tabloid along the lines of the Reporter.

Now, with the new launch and the acquisition of the six-year-old freebie Gray newspaper, the company owns eight newspapers, covering 36 towns from in Cumberland, York, and Oxford counties, according to the list provided in its press release, though the text of the release says the papers "reach more than 45 communities."

There has been no discussion of the buyout on Prata's weblog, which is billed as "my behind the scenes thoughts about the running of a small newspaper in a small town of people with big hearts."
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