How Stephen King saved a local paper's book reviews section

King called on his legion of fans via Twitter, and in about 24 hours had dozens of new subscribers signing up for the near-defunct local reviews

Stephen King poses for photographers as he arrives for a press conference dedicated to presenting his new book "Doctor Sleep" on November 12, 2013, in Paris. AFP PHOTO / ERIC FEFERBERG / AFP PHOTO / ERIC FEFERBERG
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Don't mess with Stephen King, or his local newspaper's book reviews.

That's the message we should probably all take away from the latest David and Goliath-style social media showdown, in which King took on his much-loved local rag, The Portland Press Herald, and won - armed with just a few tweets.

The Herald, a prominent newspaper in King's home state of Maine, had just announced it was to cut locally written, regional book reviews.

But apparently they'd failed to consult King, and when the horror author found out, he was most displeased.
"Tell the paper DON'T DO THIS," the 71-year-old tweeted, asking his 5.1 million followers to retweet him.

Paying tribute to the state of the US (and international) media, King added that it was "all about money and a shrinking income for newspapers".

"Maine writers won't get a boost," he wrote. "Many of them depend on those reviews to buy bread and milk."

The paper in question was quick to take advantage of the upswing in publicity, and cunningly attempted to leverage King's fandom to break the stalemate.

"These are challenging times for newspapers," the paper replied, via its Twitter account. It then made him an offer he couldn't refuse: if King could get 100 of his followers to buy digital subscriptions to the Portland Press Herald, the local book reviews would be saved.

Challenge accepted. King shared the ultimatum with his loyal following, meanwhile wondering if this was blackmail, or all an elaborate sales pitch, but nonetheless proceeding on his quest to find 100 readers willing to pay $15 (Dh55) for 12 weeks. His initial tweet was shared 9,000 times.

The Portland Press Herald chose the perfect foe when it went into battle with King, because he reached his goal in about 24 hours. And with him coming away victorious, it really meant everyone won.

Upon hearing the challenge had been so readily overcome, the Portland Press Herald responded jubilantly on Twitter with a hat-tipping GIF and a heartfelt message to its readers: "You all are the best readers anywhere. Sincerely. We're at our goal. Book reviews will return. We love you Maine. We love you journalists. We love you newspapers."

Unfortunately, the feeling wasn't exactly mutual. King mic-dropped the saga thanking the fans, before directing one last barb at the state of journalism in the US.
"Thanks to everybody who subscribed to the Press-Herald. You saved the day," he said. "There are countries where the arts are considered vital. Too bad this isn't one of them."

That was before everything almost descended into complete anarchy when King really took umbrage with the paper; mistaking a message to another man named 'Steven' as them misspelling his name. But that's a tale for another day.


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