Millstein is one of five honored by New England Newspaper and Press Association
MAY 7, 2023
MOUNT DESERT ISLAND AND WALTHAM, MASSACHUSETTS—This weekend the New England Newspaper and Press Association honored the Quietside Journal’s founder, Lincoln Millstein, with a Yankee Quill Award. He was one of five journalists (four living, one a man who made history) to receive the award “for their contributions to the betterment of journalism in the six-state region. The award is given “for broad influence for good over the course of a career.”
Millstein was instrumental in the early days of newspapers adapting to digitization and the internet.
The bio on the press release reads, “Lincoln Millstein earns the Yankee Quill award for the major imprint that he has left on local journalism’s digital presence in New England, and far beyond. After serving as city editor, business editor, and managing editor for features at the Boston Globe, he co-founded Boston.com and shepherded it through its formative years as CEO. He helped build the newspaper industry’s first forays into serious digital news businesses. He went on to run digital for Hearst Newspapers and spearheaded industrywide digital initiatives including the Yahoo! Consortium and the industry’s first private digital advertising exchange. But what stands out the most is his undying excitement about tough journalism and great storytelling.”
The other journalists honored were Steve Curwood, Anne Galloway, Mal Leary, and the creator of the Old Farmer’s Almanac Robert Bailey Thomas.
Lincoln, first up congratulations on being one of the Yankee Quill Award honorees. When you were a child, did you ever imagine that journalism would become your life’s calling? Were you always trying to chip away at mysteries and figure out the truths of things?
I didn’t learn English until I was nine when I was adopted by an American soldier in Taiwan. I learned to speak it fluently in nine months. I’ve always had this impulse to learn about how cultures are differentiated so to demystify them. It’s an irony that I came to make a career out of a non-native tongue.
You’ve had so many roles in the newspaper world: city editor, business editor, reporter. You brought the Boston Globe into digital news and then ran the digital news for Hearst Newspapers, right? Was there a favorite role?
Yes. It was my first job as a local reporter for The Hartford Courant, working in a town where the readers could see me every day working the beat. I loved the personal connection.
And when I think of you moving through these roles, especially into the digital realm, I think of a quest for learning? But there’s also a component of getting story to people in new ways. When you think of all those ways you’ve interacted with news and story, do you feel that you were compelled by a desire to learn and know more, a desire to disseminate information more freely, or a desire to tell story?
Actually, the first time I got into a chat room on Compuserv in 1992, I got this sickening feeling that newspapers would be in big trouble, especially its advertising base. I taught myself digital media. The Globe made me a vice president, and I left the newsroom to pursue solutions. I think most newspapers still haven’t fully adapted.
I was just talking to a former reporter about how there can be a couple of reactions to leaving the news world. Some of us can’t read a newspaper again for years. Some of us miss that hit of dopamine that happens when you break a case or scoop a story. Some of us enter a world with benefits and never look back. And some of us hear it calling us to return. Did you ever have a break from the news world and did you hear it calling you back or did you have one of those other reactions?
Yes. I loved the business world, but when I retired, it was local news which drew me back. I could have worked as a media consultant, but reporting local news was much more satisfying.
I was researching a murder for a story last year, and I came across your byline in a bunch of stories in the 1970s for the Hartford Courant. There was one about a mass murder in 1977 where you interviewed Lorne Acquin, who was eventually charged with the murder of nine people, I think? It’s a fascinating case and you, as a young reporter, had such a big role in it. Did that case help inform who you are as a reporter? Was there another case or moment that was more pivotal to your career?
I was bureau chief in Middletown, CT., where the state’s institution for the criminally insane was located. The warden invited me to take a tour. I saw Lorne Acquin in the hallway and began to interview him. His “confession” was pretty incriminating and I had to testify in front of the trial judge. My 10 years at the Courant were so formative. I was lucky to be part of a newsroom where reporters were given incredible license. They were the happiest days of my career.
Can you tell me your connection to MDI and Maine? Is there something about it here that you love and made you pick this as your home?
I was at the Globe and a colleague recommended the Asticou Inn for vacation in 1984. We’ve been summer people ever since. We built a house in Somesville upon my retirement.
You said in an email that you think of The Quietside Journal as the capstone of your career. There are so many ways to think of capstones: a final project, a crowning achievement, a set of slabs that a wall has been built up to support. Can you tell me about why you’ve been compelled to create the Quietside and what you hope to do with it?
I started like you did – during the early days of the pandemic, covering stories ignored by the Islander. Slowly, I built a following. You’re doing the same. About half of your stories aren’t even in the paper. I also like the contributions from Shaun Farrar. The Narcan piece was a great example of public service. But my investigative instincts started kicking around the time the aquafarm was proposed for Frenchman Bay.
Do you have any heroes in the news world that you’ve hoped to emulate or be inspired by? Was your early career hard or easy? When you broke into those news rooms?
Thomas Paine, the original blogger; Ida Tarbell, Lincoln Steffens and Upton Sinclair – the original muckrakers …
Apologies. I think I could ask a million questions. But I’m going to add one more. I’ve personally been thinking a lot about my own resilience and purpose. As a journalist and a human, how have you become resilient? Or are you? And as a human and a journalist, how do you think that the world of news links into your purpose in life?
Truth, facts, information are the oxygen of a democracy. Bad things happen to a community when those fail. I have made some enemies. Some of the restaurants on the island won’t serve me. Some trades people won’t return my calls. Journalists – at least the good ones – will perform under pressure.
And finally, is there a question I should be asking you that I’m not? Feel free to answer it and thank you again, Lincoln, for the interview. And congratulations! What a wonderful thing.
Thank you. I’m grateful for the service you provide. You’re contributing to improving the quality of life on MDI.
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The Quietside Journal
A news blog on Mount Desert Island written in the tradition of pamphleteers to stir the citizenry toward a common good. (QSJ is a member of the Maine Press Association and published by Long Pond Advisors LLC. It is represented by Morgan Lewis & Bockius.
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