The Bangor Daily News was founded on June 18, 1889; it merged with the Bangor Whig and Courier in 1900. Also known as the News or the BDN, the paper is published by Bangor Publishing Company, a local family-owned company.
It has been owned by the Towle-Warren family for four generations; current publisher Richard J. Warren is the great-grandson of J. Norman Towle, who bought the paper in 1895. Since 2018, it has been the only independently owned daily newspaper in the state.
The Bangor Daily News's first issue was June 18, 1889; the main stockholder in the publishing company was Bangor shipping and logging businessman Thomas J. Stewart. Upon Stewart's death in 1890, his sons took control of the paper, which was originally a tabloid with "some news, but also plenty of gossip, lurid stories and scandals." In 1895, J. Norman Towle purchased the newspaper. Ownership of the paper remained in the family, and Towle's great-grandson Richard J. Warren remains the publisher today.
The Bangor Daily News merged with the Bangor Whig & Courier in 1900, leaving two newspapers in the city: BDN and the Bangor Daily Commercial (which ceased publication in 1949). Towle's son-in-law Fred Jordan took control of the paper in 1929. Forty-six BDN staff members served in the U.S. forces during World War II, and the paper's managing editor John M. O’Connell was sent to Europe as a war correspondent. After Fred Jordan's death in 1947, his widow Lillis Towle Jordan became publisher. Richard K. Warren became publisher in 1955 and remained in that role until 1984, a time when the newspaper's circulation dramatically increased. It has only missed one day of delivery in its entire history. On New Year's Eve 1962, a massive blizzard dumped over three feet of snow on Bangor, with 20-foot snowdrifts that made it impossible for the delivery trucks to move.
The newspaper's peak came in the mid-1980s, when Bangor Daily News had 150 reporters and editors and 150 other employees. At the time, published seven regional editions of the newspaper throughout Maine, and in addition to its main office on Main Street in Bangor had news bureaus at Madawaska, Presque Isle, Houlton, Pittsfield, Calais, Machias, Rockland, Augusta and Ellsworth.
In 1982, a reporter for the Bangor Daily News, Beurmond Banville, who ran a one-person news bureau for the paper in Madawaska, Maine, on the U.S.-Canada border, wrote about a pretrial hearing in a murder case in New Brunswick, Canada. After publishing an account of the restricted proceeding in BDN, Banville was convicted in a Canadian court for violating a publication ban, and was fined $160; in 1983, the Court of Appeal of New Brunswick upheld the conviction, but gave Banville an absolute discharge, meaning that he does not have any Canadian criminal record. Banville and the newspaper considered the Canadian court's ruling to be a prior restraint on freedom of the press, but decided not to further appeal considering the cost. The ruling appears in a textbook on Canadian media law.
Richard J. Warren succeeded his father as editor in 1984; five years later, the newspaper moved its printing plant from Bangor to a new printing plant in Hampden (which was closed in 2013 and sold in 2015).
The newspaper was an early adopter of a policy against running tobacco advertising. As of 1993, the Bangor Daily News was one of fewer than twenty American newspapers that declined to accept ads for tobacco products.
The newspaper launched its Web presence in 1997 at bangornews.com, later moving to bangordailynews.com in the 2000s. From 1997 to 2001, BDN acted as an Internet service provider in addition to a newspaper, working with two local, small telecommunications companies to provide dial-up Internet access to a few thousand people in Maine.
BDN adopted an aggressive "digital-first" publishing strategy, and became the most-read online news source in the state; in 2011, the Portland Press Herald outsold BDN in print copies by a few thousand papers on an average weekday, but BDN's website had more than 100,000 unique visitors than the Press Herald's website.
In 2008, the paper's editorial page director, Todd Benoit, was appointed BDN's director of new media; he later became BDN's president and chief operating officer. In 2014, Richard J. Warren became publisher of the newspaper. The company that owns and operates the newspaper, Bangor Publishing Co., expanded through acquisitions of Bangor Metro magazine (2014), Madawaska's St. John Valley Times (2015), and Fort Kent's Fiddlehead Focus (2016). The company also owns several weekly newspapers in Maine: the Presque Isle Star-Herald, Caribou Aroostook Republican and News, Dover-Foxcroft Piscataquis Observer, Houlton Pioneer Times, and Greater Bangor The Weekly.
In 2011 and 2012, BDN established the partnerships The Maine Campus (the independent student newspaper at the University of Maine) and The Free Press (the student newspaper at the University of Southern Maine) through the BDN media partners program. The program involves a content-sharing agreement as well as training and Web hosting services provided by BDN to the student newspapers.
In 2011, BDN hired an additional reporter to cover Greater Portland and reassigned another reporter to cover the southern mid-coast of Maine. Editor-in-chief Mike Dowd also named editorial-page editor Susan Young as "managing editor for investigative reporting and new initiatives" and appointed Tom Groening as editorial-page editor.
The Bangor Daily News and The Quoddy Tides sought records under the Maine Freedom of Access Act of closed-door tribal councils of the Passamaquoddy Tribe relating to a proposed $500 million liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on tribal land at the Pleasant Point Reservation. A Maine court decided that the newspapers were not entitled to the records because the tribal officials' negotiations with the Oklahoma-based LNG developer were undertaken in the reservation's capacity as "a profit-making business rather than municipal governance" and were therefore not subjected to the Freedom of Access Act. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously affirmed the ruling in 2006. In 2013, Bangor Daily News reporters submitted a public records request to Maine's state government for public information that included the names and addresses of the holders of concealed-weapon permits. The request, made in furtherance of newsgathering, prompted a fierce uproar, and the newspaper dropped the request.
In 2018, Bangor Daily News became the state's only independently owned daily newspaper in the state, after MaineToday Media, owned by Reade Brower, acquired additional newspapers in Maine. MaineToday now owns the seven of Maine's eight daily newspapers: the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, the Times Record of Brunswick, the Journal Tribune of Biddeford, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, and the Coastal Journal in Bath. Although Brower's company does not own BDN, it does provide printing services for BDN.
As of 2020, about half of BDN's journalists were based in Bangor, with the other half spread across Maine.
In May 2022, the newsroom staff unionized with the Maine NewsGuild and won recognition from management.
The Bangor Daily News's editorial stance has traditionally leaned toward conservatism and the Republican Party, in contrast to the Portland Press Herald, which was regarded as having a more liberal, pro-Democratic editorial stance. It historically endorsed Republican candidates for office, such as Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election, but has also sometimes endorsed Democratic candidates. In the 1974 Maine gubernatorial election, the Bangor Daily News endorsed independent candidate James B. Longley: "The newspaper had always endorsed Republicans, so backing an independent was stunning." The endorsement was a major boost to Longley's candidacy. The paper also backed independent candidate Herman "Buddy" Frankland and Republican Susan Collins.
BDN's editorial board endorsed Republican George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election, but endorsed Democrat John Kerry over Bush in the 2004 presidential election. In 2008, BDN endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president, Republican Susan Collins for Senate, and Democrats Mike Michaud and Chellie Pingree for Maine's congressional seats. The paper's editorial board also endorsed Obama for reelection in 2012 over Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
- Emily Burnham (June 18, 2019). "Tabloid origins, war correspondent and the only day no papers were delivered: A 130-year history of the Bangor Daily News". Bangor Daily News.
- Bob Keyes (March 23, 2018). "Press Herald owner Reade Brower will buy newspapers in Biddeford and Brunswick". The Portland Press Herald.
- Cole Land Transportation Museum
- Jonathan Friendly, Maine Newspaper Tests Canadian Court Curb, New York Times (March 4, 1982).
- Reporter's Conviction Upheld, Reuters (January 19, 1983).
- Robert Martin & Stuart Adam, Sourcebook of Canadian Media Law (2d. ed: Carlton University Press, 1994), pp. 335-41.
- William Glaberson, Seattle Times Places a Ban on Tobacco Advertisements, New York Times (July 5, 1993).
- Al Diamon (June 17, 2011). "Media Mutt: Bangor Daily Dominates Online News". Down East. Archived from the original on June 23, 2011.
- Julia Bayly (November 14, 2015). "Bangor Daily News owner acquires St. John Valley Times". Bangor Daily News.
- BDN launches partnership with The Maine Campus newspaper, Bangor Daily News (December 9, 2011).
- The Free Press teams up with the Bangor Daily News, Free Press (April 9, 2013).
- Al Diamon (August 9, 2011). "Media Mutt: The Bangor Daily News Beefs Up". Down East. Archived from the original on March 18, 2012.
- Maine Court Rejects Newspapers' Bid for Tribal Records, Editor & Publisher (May 9, 2006).
- Maine: Uproar Over Request for Gun Permit Data, Reuters (February 15, 2013).
- Casey Kelly, The man behind Maine's unparalleled consolidation of local news, Columbia Journalism Review (September 6, 2018).
- "Staff Directory". Bangor Daily News. April 19, 2020.
- "Bangor Daily News will voluntarily recognize newsroom employees' union". 6 May 2022.
- Christian P. Potholm, This Splendid Game: Maine Campaigns and Elections, 1940-2002 (Lexington Books: 2004), p. 9.
- Richard J. Powell, "A Campaign About Campaign Discourse: Maine's Second District in Running on Empty? Political Discourse in Congressional Elections (eds: Louis Sandy Maisel & Darrell M. West: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004), p. 121.
- United Press International (October 25, 1964).
- Douglas Rooks, Statesman: George Mitchell and the Art of the Possible (Down East Books, 2016), p. 119.
- Christian P. Potholm, This Splendid Game: Maine Campaigns and Elections, 1940-2002 (Lexington Books: 2004), p. 197.
- Greg Mitchell, Daily Endorsement Tally: A Handful of Pickups for Each, but a Bigger Handful for Kerry, Editor & Publisher (October 27, 2004).
- Endorsements 2008 — Editorials, Bangor Daily News (October 31, 2008).
- Obama should serve four more years, Bangor Daily News (October 26, 2012).