Vision: The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting will fulfill the responsibility of a free press in the American democracy by looking beneath the surface of Maine government and writing clearly and without fear or favor about what it discovers.
Mission: The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting will keep citizens informed about their government and their public servants through high-quality, independent investigative reporting that is published by media outlets across the state.
In recent years, most newspaper and broadcast news outlets in Maine have reduced newsroom staffs through layoffs, early retirements and attrition. One of the ﬁrst victims is in-depth journalism — stories which often take one or more reporters “off the street” for weeks or even months.
Serious coverage of the electoral and legislative process has also suffered. In Maine, statehouse coverage has declined from about 20 year-round reporters in 1989 to 10 in 1999 to the current ﬁve.
Non-proﬁt, foundation- and donor-supported journalism is beginning to appear in other parts of the country. Groups such as ProPublica produce national investigative reporting distributed at no cost to media outlets. Comparable regional organizations, many of them web-based, have sprung up in urban areas such as Boston, Minneapolis and San Diego.
The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting fills the gap between the diminished in-depth reporting from the existing Maine media and the need of the stateʼs citizens to be fully informed about the actions of its government and public servants.
The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has received technical assistance, inspiration and much encouragement from The New England Center for Investigative Reporting at Boston University, the first non-profit, university-based investigative reporting center in the country dedicated to local and regional issues. The New England Center was founded by veteran Boston journalists Joe Bergantino and Maggie Mulvihill and is based at the Boston University College of Communication.
Center staff and interns research, write and distribute news stories that uncover and explain the actions of state, local and federal governments and also probe the records of candidates for public ofﬁce.
Our stories are written by professional journalists with the assistance of students from Maine colleges and universities. John Christie, the publisher and senior reporter, edits all stories. Additional editing and review is provided by our media partners.
Our stories are distributed across Maine by the Center’s media partners (see list on the Home page) as well as digitally by the Center via its web site and social networking tools. Story topics are chosen by the Center senior staff based on the suggestions and advice of the Center’s advisors, media partners and by the public through our websites.
John Christie is the publisher and also the senior reporter for the Center. Christie is a media executive whose 40-year career includes work in four states as a writer, editor, general manager and publisher for newspapers owned by Tribune Co., Dow Jones and Co. and the Seattle Times Co. In June, 2009, he retired after nine years as the president and publisher of Central Maine Newspapers, which publishes two daily papers, the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel.
He has won numerous awards as a reporter and editor, including twice for best public service reporting in New England from the AP, and he was the primary editor at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel of two Pulitzer Prize finalists. In 2008, a series he edited, “For I was Hungry,” about hunger in Maine, won a number of regional and national awards, including best editorial series from the national Society of Professional Journalists.
Christie was one of the first journalists to serve as a full-time training editor for a newspaper, a position that included coaching writers and editors on their craft and creating and running a news writing program for high school and college minority students.
He is also the editor of four books, including a bestselling book on Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida in 1992. He has spoken on newspaper management and writing in the United States, Europe and South America.
While Christie has contributed to almost every story published by the Center, he has developed a specialty in state finances, pension costs and the abuse of business tax breaks.
A University of New Hampshire graduate, Christie began his career in Maine as the summer intern in 1968 at the Sanford Tribune. He lives in Hallowell with his wife, Naomi Schalit.
Naomi Schalit is the executive director and senior reporter for the Center. A graduate of Princeton University with a degree in religion and Near Eastern studies, Schalit attended the Graduate School of Journalism at University of California, Berkeley and began her career at the San Jose Mercury News. In the last two decades, she has written for magazines and newspapers around the country, worked as a columnist for the Maine Times and for five years was a reporter and producer at Maine Public Radio. While at MPR, her reports were also featured on National Public Radio, Public Radio International and the CBC. Schalit won many awards for her radio reporting, including one from Public Radio News Directors, Inc., or PRNDI, for her expose of an historic state conservation deal gone bad.
In between all the reporting, writing and producing, she also took temporary leaves from journalism in 1993 to run her own floorcloth manufacturing studio and almost a decade later, to serve for three years as executive director of a statewide non-profit conservation group.
In April 2005, she joined the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel as Opinion page editor. In 2007, she won first place in the New England AP News Editors’ competition for editorial writing during 2006. She was the recipient of a 2007 Publick Occurrences Award from the New England Newspaper Association, Honorable Mention in the Anna Quindlen Award for 2007, Runner-up in the 2007 Casey Journalism Awards and First Place for editorial writing in the 2007 National Sigma Delta Chi Awards, all for her multi-part editorial series on hunger in Maine, “For I Was Hungry.” That series also earned her the first “Force for Good” award given by Portland non-profit Preble Street.
While Schalit has contributed to almost every story published by the Center, she has developed a specialty in energy and legislative and executive branch ethics.
Schalit has two grown children and lives in Hallowell, Maine, with her husband, John Christie.
Hildie J. Lipson, the Center's chief operating officer, worked previously at MaineShare, where she was executive director for eight years, and before that campaign coordinator for eight years, raising money for 40 statewide nonprofits through workplace payroll giving. She was the director of the Freeport (Maine) Recycling Center in the late '80’s and for four years prior to that worked in Ann Arbor, Michigan helping people with low incomes weatherize their homes. Hildie graduated from the University of Michigan with a self-designed major in Energy Studies, focusing on renewable energy and conservation. She is a certified Let Your Yoga Dance® instructor, lives in Wayne and has one daughter.
Kate McCormick, contributing writer, has worked for about 30 years in print media, beginning with a reporting stint at The Indianapolis Star, from which she moved to a job as a reporter for the Patriot Ledger in Needham and Wellesley, Massachusetts. In 1977, she joined the copy desk of Newsday on Long Island, but almost immediately became a copy editor for the newspaper’s fledgling Queens edition, later called New York Newsday. From 1988 to 1995, she was an op-ed editor for New York Newsday. She later worked for Forbes special interest publications and served two years as associate editor of the Episcopal News Service, based in New York. She is now happily retired in Maine, to which she moved with her partner in 2010. Kate is a journalism graduate of Indiana University and also holds a master of divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York.