The Town Line only weekly newspaper in central Maine

The Town Line Board of Directors, from left to right, Joann Austin, president, Dan L’Heureux, Neil Farrington, Eric Austin, and Emily Cates, treasurer. (Absent from photo, Steve Ball.)

Roland D. Halleeby Roland D. Hallee, editor

The first issue of The Town Line was published on March 15, 1989.

The brain child of Gary and Trish Newcomb, of China, the newspaper’s goal was to bring neighbors and their respective towns closer together through better communications.

Area towns and their residents had gone through some turbulent times during the mid-’80s when much animosity had grown to epidemic proportions. Gary and Trish fig- ured that if people really knew what their neighbors were doing, they would better understand each other.

Although the original mission statement for The Town Line can’t be found, its general meaning is how the newspaper got its name. Gary and Trish believed that if every- one was more open in their communications, they could all become better neighbors, and asked people to take their discussions, differences and ideas, and meet at “the town line.”

Preparing that first issue was a monumental task. First there was equipment to purchase, acqaint themselves with computers and their programs, find a printer, and then arrange a distribution system.

Once the first issue hit the streets, Gary said, “How will be ever put out another issue?” He thought he had used up all possible material in that first issue. Well, miracles happen, and now, 32 years later, The Town Line newspaper has published 1,587 issues.

Gary and Trish nurtured the newspaper for the first nine years, until, thinking they had taken the paper as far as they could, put it up for sale in 1997. The final issue under the guidance of the Newcombs came on December 20, 1997.

The original staff consisted of three people. The first issue denotes the Newcombs as both publishers and editors. Trish was advertising director and Gary took care of the graphic designs. Julie Dermott was administrative assistant.

As time passed, and the newspaper grew, additional staff members were needed to accomplish the work. On May 16, 1990, Susan Cottle became the first editor other than the Newcombs. She would continue in that capacity until the end of 1991. Joe Lupsha and Fred Davis each served as assistant editor during this period.

On January 6, 1992, Lea Davis was named the second editor in the paper’s history. Lea would continue as editor and eventually as managing editor until May 14, 2004, the longest tenured editor in the history of the paper at the time.

During her time, the paper went through a series of setbacks due to changes in ownership. After the Newcombs closed the paper at the end of 1997 for a lack of a buyer, Dennis Keller came on the scene and purchased the assets. The paper reopened its doors on January 31, 1998.

The paper would continue on its normal path until July 3, 1998, when it became a bi-weekly (once every two weeks) due to economic hardships. Keller would eventually close the doors on October 10, 1998.

That’s when the paper’s future took an unexpected turn for the better. A small group of former staff and some interested community members worked through the winter of 1999, formed a new plan and incorporated the publication as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Spearheaded by Joann Austin, Faith Ames, the late John Robie, staff members Lea Davis, Sandy Keller and Roland Hallee, all of whom donated their time, the groundwork was ready to continue towards re-opening the paper.

On March 6, 1999, The Town Line re-emerged as the voice of these small central Maine towns. Through great community support, both from businesses and small grants from the towns, The Town Line firmly planted itself back on the path to recovery. The Town Line is now a nonprofit private foundation with a board of directors as overseers. The current members of the board of directors are Joann Austin, Eric Austin, Neil Farrington, Emily Cates, Dan L’Heureux, Jeanne Marquis and Steve Ball.

Others to have served on the board in the past have included Gladys Hewett, Phyllis Thorne, Sam Birch, Margie Roy, the late Joe Pinette, Walter Wilson, Mike Mara, Faith Ames, Dick Kelley and Joe Suga, among others.

On June 1, 2004, Susan Varney became the third editor in the newspaper’s history. She would continue in that position until February 2005, when upon her departure, Roland Hallee became the fourth editor and second managing editor of The Town Line. He continues today as the managing editor and is now the longest tenured staff member of The Town Line, having begun his tenure in May 1993 – a span of 27 years. With 56 years of newspaper work, and editor of two other newspapers, in Pittsfield and Skowhegan, he has used his experience to guide The Town Line through some dark days.

Over the 32 years, The Town Line has occupied five different locations. The original site was at the old fire station, next to the old post office off Rte. 3, recently occupied by Whitt’s Garments.

From that location, they moved in January 1994 to a building on Rte. 3, across from the new South China Post Office, now occupied by Legacy Home Improvement. They would remain there only a short period of time before relocating in June 1995, to the 202 Plaza, on Rte. 202.

Upon its reopening as a nonprofit in 1999, they were located in the lower level at Jonesbrook Crossing, in South China. They would remain at that site until November 2008, when they moved upstairs in the same building in the space formerly occupied by Fernald Family Chiropractic. In October 2017, the move was made to its present location, the lower level of the old China Town Hall, in China, near the town office. All of the locations were in South China.

Through the years, others were instrumental in the success of the paper. Susan Boody, Adam Hansen, Troy Henderson, Carl Mercier, Paul Basham and Diane Bickford have all served as advertising directors. Kathy Duhnoski is the present ad director. Advertising salesmen over the years have included Ken Nawfel, Betsy Murphy, Martha Holzwarth, Aileen Wescott, Marlene Myers and Bill Zinck, among others. Office managers have included Heide Hotham, Sandy Keller, Sylvia Martin, Marilyn Boyle and Angela Brunette. Claire Breton has been business manager since 2000. Prior to that, business managers have included Ed Heath, Natalie Lyon and Adam Hansen. Others to contribute as graphic artists have been Fran Vitolo, Susan Walter, Dirk Rose, Roland Hallee and Kareno Stansbury. Lyn Rowden served as senior staff writer from 2006-2013, a position now held by Eric Austin.

Intertwined with all of these people is an endless list of regular contributors and volunteers.

Support local journalism! Donate to The Town Line here.

Become a member: An open letter to our readers

The Town Line Board of Directors, from left to right, Joann Austin, president, Dan L’Heureux, Neil Farrington, Eric Austin, and Emily Cates, treasurer.

Dear readers and supporters of The Town Line:

For the past 33 years, The Town Line has pledged a mission statement to “create a vibrant rural community connecting our towns, organizations and individuals through communication, education and public dialogue.” It’s all part of The Town Line’s mission to be a positive force in our community and bring together the rural towns of central Maine by promoting better understanding of our surroundings.

Unfortunately, the last two decades have not been good for the nation’s newspapers. Nearly 1,800 local newspapers have closed their doors since 2014, according to a study done by the University of North Carolina. The hardest hit are community papers like The Town Line that concentrate exclusively on local issues.

The reason so many newspapers across the country have gone out of business in recent years is simple – it’s all about the advertising. In the past, the revenue from advertising has gone to pay the writers and reporters investigating local stories – and to pay for the cost of printing and distributing the paper each week. That is how The Town Line has remained a free paper for all of its 33-year history.

However, things have changed. With the advent of the internet in the 1990s, advertising is no longer controlled by publications, but by social networking websites and search engines. As the internet has grown and gained more influence in our daily lives, the advertising power of the internet has grown as well. Over the years, the revenue from advertising that used to support local newspapers has shifted to global search engines and huge social networking websites instead. This change in who benefits from advertising has been a death blow to many local papers.

According to a 2018 study published in the Oxford Journal of Communication, communities without a local source of news become more partisan, divided and politically fractured. You’ve seen it happen on the national level. It’s a growing problem around the country. Part of the problem for this is the loss of local publications like ours.

The Town Line also differs from other media companies because we are a nonprofit organization. Most of our writers are volunteers. Our editor and staff are paid sub-standard wages. And we don’t push any political agenda. We serve as a voice for our diverse community but take no editorial side in any issue. We concentrate solely on local stories of interest to the rural towns of central Maine. However, we can no longer survive on advertising dollars alone. We need the support of the community more than ever. That is why we are writing to you today.

What can you do to help? For as little as $25 a year, you’ll become a member of The Town Line newspaper and receive our mailings and updates. You can talk to local business about the importance of advertising in The Town Line, to not only support the paper, but to show their support of community, instead of giant corporations like Facebook and Google.

The Town Line is a nonprofit community newspaper and we’re a dying breed. The world would be a worse place without us. In these days of mass media and internet mega-companies, we need your help to continue our mission to bring the residents of central Maine together through “communication, education and public dialogue.”

Won’t you join us and become a member today? (Click here to become a member.)



The Town Line Board of Directors:
Joann Austin, president; Eric Austin, secretary; Emily Cates, treasurer; Neil Farrington, Dan L’Heureux, Steve Ball and Jeanne Marquis.

Donate securely online here or mail your check to:

The Town Line newspaper
PO Box 89

South China, ME 04358


Article updated on 01/21/2021

Facebook to match donations on “Giving Tuesday” for nonprofit organizations

To help raise awareness of the causes that people care about and further amplify that generosity, this year, on Tuesday, December 3, Facebook will match up to $7 million in donations made through the social media platform to U.S. nonprofits on a first-come, first-served basis.

You may take this opportunity to make a donation to The Town Line and Facebook will match that donation. To donate, follow our page and look for our Facebook post on Giving Tuesday!

You can also help out by creating a fundraising campaign for us on your own page using this link:

Donate on Giving Tuesday without using Facebook here.



(See Facebook’s additional Terms & Conditions here.)

Facebook to hold Giving Tuesday for nonprofit donations

Social media platform to match donations

To help raise awareness of the causes that people care about and further amplify that generosity, this year, on December 3, Facebook will match up to $7 million in donations made on Facebook to U.S. nonprofits on a first-come, first-served basis.

You may take this opportunity to make a donation to The Town Line and Facebook will match that donation.

You can also help out by creating a fundraising campaign for us on your own page using this link:

Look for our post on Facebook on Giving Tuesday!


See Facebook’s additional Terms & Conditions here.

Thank you…

The Town Line board and staff: Joann Austin, Roland Hallee (editor), Phyllis Thorne (volunteer), Neil Farrington, Eric Austin, Emily Cates, and Claire Breton.

Thank you…

The board of directors and the staff of The Town Line thank all who have contributed or donated to the newspaper, so we can continue our work to bring you the local news you desire.


Our mission is not yet finished, and we need all your support to continue in our endeavor.

Thank you again, and if you have not made a donation, please consider doing so today. Every dollar helps in our battle to continue as your viable community newspaper.

The Town Line is a nonprofit, 501(c)3 private foundation, and donations are tax deductible under the IRS tax codes.

Donate securely online here, mail your checks, payable to The Town Line, to PO Box 89, South China, ME 04358, or drop off your contribution at our office located at 575 Lakeview Dr., South China, next to the China Town Office.

We thank all of you!

How The Town Line nurtures a healthy community

The Town Line office in South China, ME.

Emily Catesby Emily Cates, board member and author of Garden Works

As Springtime wraps its fragrant, humming breeze around me as I’m out in the garden, I often think a lot about how my efforts and activities will sustain myself, my family, and my community throughout the year and beyond. Every seed planted, every shovelful of dirt, each load of compost is significant towards this goal.

It can be a whole lot of work, but with the help from family, friends, and neighbors, the jobs become less grueling and oftentimes pleasant as we work together side by side.

When I’m not busy in my garden, I enjoy writing about gardening and serving on the board of directors for The Town Line. Being a board member has given me a close up view of the inner workings of our community — and how our reader-supported, free, nonprofit, weekly newspaper informs and enhances our community.

Just as I am amazed at a garden that thrives in adversity, I am impressed with what The Town Line has been able to achieve and contribute for over 30 years on such small amounts of money, and despite the current economic reality facing newspapers because of falling advertising revenues.

Please take a moment to imagine our community without The Town Line. In my mind, it looks a bit like an abandoned, untended lot. Things would go on, but not to their vibrant potential.

If you, as a reader, value The Town Line, appreciate being informed, enjoy the articles and stories, and have in some way been touched by them, then our newspaper is important to you!

Please consider making a contribution and becoming a member. Not only will you personally benefit from The Town Line continuing as a part of a vibrant community, our whole community will continue to benefit.

Donate to become a member here.