October 9, 2012

MaineToday Media names CEO/publisher

Lisa DeSisto, 49, a Boston Globe executive and expert in digital news products, will begin her new job Nov. 19.

By John Richardson jrichardson@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A top advertising and digital executive from The Boston Globe has been named chief executive officer of MaineToday Media Inc. and publisher of Maine's largest chain of newspapers and websites.

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Lisa DeSisto

Boston Globe

Lisa DeSisto, 49, is the chief advertising officer of Boston Globe Media and the general manager of Boston.com, one of the 10 most-viewed newspaper websites in the country.

She will begin her new job Nov. 19 as publisher of the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, MaineToday.com and the Coastal Journal in Bath.

DeSisto said Tuesday that she sees the new job as a chance to use her experience in Boston to lead an expansion of digital services and revenue at MaineToday. She also said she sees an opportunity to increase newspaper circulation, based in part on the company's recent expansion of its news staff.

"MaineToday Media is experiencing some of the same questions the Globe was in terms of how to drive the digital revenue and position itself for a digital future," she said.

"I also was really impressed with the approach that Donald Sussman has taken, of investing in the newsroom. At a time when you see many newspapers cutting back, the folks at MaineToday Media understand how important it is to put out a quality product."

DeSisto will be the first person to permanently fill the top executive position since the company faced a financial crisis and internal reorganization last fall and winter. Sussman, a financier and philanthropist who is married to U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, became majority owner in March.

The North Haven resident and an interim management team have since restored positions -- including for nine reporters and one editor -- and prepared to modernize the content management system used to produce the newspapers and websites.

"Since March, we have moved to strengthen MaineToday Media and position it for sustained growth," Sussman said in a written statement Tuesday.

In a telephone interview, Sussman called DeSisto an experienced community-builder. "Putting such an incredibly accomplished woman in charge of our papers is another step in establishing the highest journalistic standards that our community deserves," he said.

The leader of the Maine Newspaper Guild, which represents about 220 employees at the Press Herald and Morning Sentinel, said the hiring of an expert in digital news products is another step forward.

"Our members have made some really hard sacrifices over the past few years to keep this company afloat, and we are excited finally to be in this position. We now have both an innovative leader and a committed owner who is investing in quality journalism and new technology," said Tom Bell, a Press Herald reporter who serves as guild president, in a written statement.

DeSisto has been at the Globe since 1995, when she became the first marketing manager for Boston.com. She rose through a series of marketing, digital product and sales management positions. She has been responsible for integrated print and digital ad sales at the Globe and general manager of Boston.com since 2010.

Globe Publisher Christopher Mayer issued an announcement to employees praising DeSisto for "enormous" contributions to the Globe and Boston.com.

Scott Steeves, a 28-year Globe employee and president of the Boston Newspaper Guild, said DeSisto has been "extremely reasonable and fair" with employees.

"She had an open-door policy. She was always available to sit and talk with. I'm sorry that the Globe is losing her," he said.

DeSisto was part of the team at the Globe that last year launched a second website, BostonGlobe.com, and began an unusual two-brand strategy. Boston.com remains a free news, arts and entertainment site that features articles generated by the Globe and a variety of other content. BostonGlobe.com is a subscriber-only news site that features all of the newspaper's journalism, without some of the features, such as blogs, found on most newspaper websites.

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