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Stephen King’s Appeal Prompts Local Paper to Save Freelance Book Reviews

Maine’s Portland Press Herald asked King to find 100 new subscribers to pay for book reviews — and the horror writer delivered

Maine’s local Portland Press Herald will not abandon their Sunday book review section after a campaign led by Stephen King resulted in more than 200 new subscriptions to the paper. The news was first revealed by the Press Herald over the weekend.

Responding to the broader financial pressures facing local news, the paper had planned to nix freelance reviews of Maine-focused books as a cost-cutting measure — until Stephen King stepped in.

“The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram will no longer publish local, freelance-written reviews of books about Maine, set in Maine, or written by Maine authors,” King wrote. “Retweet this if you’re from Maine (or even if you’re not). Tell the paper DON’T DO THIS.”

The paper responded with a challenge for King — send us one hundred new subscribers to cover the costs.

“These are challenging times for newspapers. But here’s an offer: If you can get 100 of your followers to buy digital subscriptions to the @PressHerald, we will reinstate the local book reviews immediately. Use the promo code KING. Deal?” the paper said.

King gamely called it blackmail — but lent his considerable voice to the cause, which succeeded well beyond the Press Herald’s original expectations.

“You all are the best readers anywhere. Sincerely. We’re at our goal. Book reviews will return,” the paper said Saturday. “We love you Maine. We love you journalists. We love you newspapers.”

“Since Stephen King was interested in our coverage, we wondered how his influence could help support local journalism, which is expensive,” Press Herald executive editor Cliff Schechtman said in a statement to the paper explaining the gimmick. “Unfortunately, the economic forces are not in our favor, revenue is down and we needed to make expense cuts.”

King a longtime resident of Bangor, Maine, has frequently used the state as a backdrop for his novels including, “Cujo”, “Carrie” and “Pet Sematary.”

“Thanks to everybody who subscribed to the Press-Herald. You saved the day,” King said on Monday. “There are countries where the arts are considered vital. Too bad this isn’t one of them. The paper thanked you guys. Also thanked me. (And misspelled my name.)”