Reporter’s Notebook

Recent Stories

Center reporters awarded top New England journalism award — twice

New England’s leading media association has awarded two of its top journalism awards
to The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. The New England Newspaper and Press Association on Thursday recognized the Center with two Publick Occurrences Awards for its expose called, “Rx for Theft,” and its profile of governor Paul LePage. The press association presented 12 Publick Occurrences Awards this year for “the very best work that New England newspapers produce … whether it’s individual or team stories, series, spot news coverage, columns or photojournalism …”

Newspapers of all sizes, from large dailies to weeklies to small online media such as the Center, competed for the awards. The Center was the only news organization to win two of the awards this year. In awarding the prize to Center senior reporters Naomi Schalit and John Christie for their series on pharmacists who steal drugs, the judges said, “The report showed that the Maine pharmacy board was too lax in reissuing licenses. Continue Reading →

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What to do when officials clam up

What should investigative journalists do when public officials won't talk — when we need to ask them big questions about facts we've uncovered after digging through public records or verifying a tip? What should we do when our phone calls go unanswered? When emails stay unread, or ignored? When you finally get ahold of them, and they say, "No comment." At an Investigative Reports and Editors conference panel today on this issue, four journalists talked about how to get the story – even when we get nothing from the public officials whose salaries we pay. Continue Reading →

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“I background my babysitters”

Snapshots from the first formal day of the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in San Francisco:

• This is a place that would make a public official with a guilty conscience pretty nervous. There are 1,500 people here, a record number of attendees. • Best swag seen so far: A t-shirt that says “I background my babysitters.”

• Major topic of conversation between sessions: “Where should we eat?” Overhead in one conversation: “I love vegetables. But I eat tons of bacon. I’m not a vegetarian.”

• Best session title so far: “Detecting corporate fraud — Tips from a crook and a sleuth.”

• “Dirty data” is not what it sounds like. Continue Reading →

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Stories we’re not supposed to tell — last day at the Logan Symposium

“The Third Rail: Stories We’re Not Supposed to Tell,” was one of the last sessions of this year’s Logan Symposium, and it was a good one. The session’s panelists were journalist and author Peter Beinart, The City University of New York; Carl Deal and Tia Lessin, documentary filmmakers; Sara Ganim, CNN investigative reporter; and James Pomfret, Reuters. What they spoke about were stories that powerful forces didn’t want told. Beinart told how his critique of the American Jewish establishment’s unswerving support of Israel has met with strong resistance in that community, including members of his own family. Deal and Lessin spoke about a conflict that developed over public television support for their documentary, Citizen Koch, in which they believed that support was cut because of concern the documentary would offend the politically conservative billionaire Koch brothers, one of whom sat on the board of the public TV affiliate in New York. Continue Reading →

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Stories that start with a toothache … and suburban cops selling cocaine — day two at the Logan Investigative Reporting Symposium

Every year the Logan Symposium begins with a session called “How the sausage is made.” That’s a phrase that reporters and political observers usually use to describe how legislators make laws — it’s not always meant as a compliment. In this case, it’s applied to investigative journalism. As documentary producer Lowell Bergman said when introducing the morning’s panelists, we were going to hear “what actually goes into the making of these stories.”

The first presenter was Megan O’Matz, an investigative reporter at the Sun-Sentinel. She and fellow reporter John Maines spent six months looking into records about Sunrise, Florida’s undercover narcotics unit. Pretty soon after they started the investigation, O’Matz said she knew she had a good story. Continue Reading →

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How we got the LePage story

chriistie detail photo

In Nov. 16, 2010, Gov.-elect Paul LePage held his first press conference in the State House. Naomi Schalit, the Center’s executive director and senior reporter, and I cornered LePage, and told him we would be checking up on how he was doing. “Give me two years,” he said. I gave him two and half, figuring I would need some months after the two-year mark to gather data, do interviews and put the whole thing together. Continue Reading →

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