Center awarded $100,000 grant

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

The grant will allow the Center to produce more in-depth journalism, expand its staff and improve its website by offering the public online, interactive sources of information on state and local government.

“In its first 18 months, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has developed a wide audience through our media partners and provided readers with journalism that is both ethical and excellent,” said Jay Davis, president of the Center’s board. “The wonderful grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation means we can charge ahead with confidence, growing as we must. We thank the foundation for the recognition and the tangible support the grant provides.”

The mission of the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation is to “invest in the future of journalism by building the ethics, skills and opportunities needed to advance principled, probing news and information now and for the future.” The foundation was established by Edith Kinney Gaylord, a pioneering journalist whose father was the editor and publisher of The Oklahoman and The Oklahoma City Times. In recent years, the foundation has been a prominent supporter of nonprofit investigative news organizations across the country, most of which, like the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, are members of the Investigative News Network.

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting was founded in 2009 by John Christie, a long-time newspaper writer, editor and executive who is a former publisher of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Christie, who was joined in 2010 by veteran Maine journalist Naomi Schalit, aimed to produce hard-hitting, non-partisan watchdog journalism about state and local government at a time when government reporting had dramatically declined in Maine. During its first 18 months, the Center has been supported by donors across the state.

A recent editorial in the Republican Journal said, “In its short existence MCPIR — a nonprofit focused on in-depth journalism, its pieces published in a number of newspapers statewide — has put out dozens of provocative articles on political candidates and state issues. Evident in all of them is an almost rabid desire to dig deep into thorny issues without respect for political boundaries. That said, MCPIR’s focus remains on telling the story it uncovers in its reporting, rather than stretching the story to create something sensational.”

The Center’s stories, written by Christie, Schalit, contributing writer Gordon Weil and freelance writers and interns, are distributed free-of-charge to media partners across the state, including daily newspapers like the Bangor Daily News, the Sun Journal and the Times Record, as well as weekly papers like The Ellsworth American, the Village Soup publications, and the Forecaster and Current chains.

In late July, the Center was also notified that, for the second year in a row, it had been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Nicholas B. Ottaway Foundation, established by the longtime owners of almost two dozen newspapers that were part of Dow Jones & Co.

Christie said Monday, “We are particularly gratified that these donations come from organizations that share our journalistic values. When your peers award you such honors, it’s especially meaningful.”

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