Reporter's Notebook

Recent Stories

Curveballs, naked emperors and BS: post-election reflections of a reporter

German philosopher Max Weber said, “Politics is the art of compromise.”

And, Weber might have added: Elections are the art of exaggeration. We at the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting spent much of the spring and summer checking out the claims of the three major candidates for U. S. senate, focusing mostly on what they said they had done to fix the economy and promote jobs. What we found, with some modest exceptions, had more spin on it than a Sandy Koufax (you call look him up) curveball. But there’s more to be learned from politicians “practiced in the art of deception,” to quote the Rolling Stones, which I like to do whenever the opportunity presents itself. Now that the votes have been (mostly) counted, the TV ads silenced and the pundits (there are so many) either crowing or eating crow, we thought we’d try to find some broader meaning from our months of reporting. Continue Reading →

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Interns, present and past: Working in journalism across the country

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PRESENT:

The Center welcomes Matt Drange, a recent graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, to our newsroom for the summer. Matt earned his master’s degree in journalism with a specialization in investigative reporting. As a fellow at Columbia’s Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, Matt reported on numerous deficiencies in the home health care industry in New York, culminating in a 5,000-word thesis project. At the same time, Matt spearheaded efforts for a class investigation into the safety of third party audits in the food industry. In the wake of last year’s deadly listeria outbreak, the story revealed conflicts of interest and lax oversight of a growing private auditing industry. Continue Reading →

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Who says that everything we do at MCPIR is deadly serious?

Staff reporters John Christie and Naomi Schalit headed down to Boston University recently for a weekend conference on narrative journalism. In between the workshops on things like “Sequencing: The Basics of Story Mechanics” and “One Story, Many Paths: Interactive Documentaries/Non-linear Storytelling” (we’re still not quite sure what non-linear storytelling is, except perhaps something an excited three-year-old might do), there was time for some fun. That included a performance by a wild group of literary musicians who played …. typewriters.  You can watch a video here. Continue Reading →

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How do non-profit journalism centers make it work?

The Investigative News Network (INN) has released ”Audience Development and Distribution Strategies.” The 84-page report is the first in-depth study about strategic and tactical advice for growing earned revenue streams from audience development, and the authors use the Maine Center as an example of one of the models for new, nonprofit journalism operations. They call our model “the startup shop” – and trust us, they really get who we are:

“The startup shop is a relatively new organization providing accountability journalism for local/regional communities. People: Small team; individuals playing multiple roles within the organization. Process: Balance between production and packaging of content, distribution deal making, and trainers/educators. Product: Unique, investigative, accountability journalism; published weekly to monthly. Continue Reading →

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Energy stories spark editorials, legislative summons

The Sun Journal published an editorial based on our stories about the Maine Green Energy Alliance:
Energy group wasted money, got little done

Let’s imagine you are starting a business,  ABC Consulting. You need 13 employees, including a manager. So you advertise, compare resumes, interview and check references before hiring. Then, on the first day of work you are having lunch with your new employees when one mentions he used to be a Democratic House member from Bangor. Another employee says, “Hey, that’s interesting, because I’m a Democrat running for the House.”

Then, strangely, another pipes up and says she is also a candidate for the House. Continue Reading →

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Shielding governor’s “working papers” from public a bad idea, Center’s president testifies

The Center’s president, Jay Davis, submitted testimony Thursday protesting the move by Gov. Paul LePage to exempt his “working papers” from the state’s Freedom of Access Act. Here’s a copy of that testimony:

 
Testimony of Jay Davis, President of the Board
Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting
Before the Joint Standing Committee on Judiciary
February 23, 2012
Re: L.D. 1805
“An Act To Implement Recommendations of the Right To Know Advisory Committee Concerning a Public Records Exception for Proposed Legislation, Reports and Working Papers of the Governor”
 

Members of the Committee:

I am Jay Davis, president of the board of directors of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting.  The Center is a nonprofit investigative news service providing independent reporting to Maine citizens about their government and elections. The Center is non-partisan; takes no editorial positions; and does not associate itself with any interest groups except professional journalistic organizations.  Our stories are published in 25 newspapers from the St. John Valley to York County, and on our own website, pinetreewatchdog.org. Government serves the people. Continue Reading →

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LePage releases ethics transparency bill

Gov. Paul LePage has released the text of his legislation to close a loophole in state
ethics law that has allowed high-level state officials not to report millions in state
payments to organizations run by themselves or their family members. Current law only requires that legislators or high-level state employees report
state purchases of goods or services worth more than $1,000 directly from the
individual legislator or family member, not from a corporation or entity for which
the legislator or family member works. LePage said in a press release Thursday that he was prompted to introduce the
legislation by a Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting story that revealed that
between 2003 and 2010 the state paid almost $235 million to such organizations. The proposed legislation also requires an executive-level state employee whose
employment has ended to file financial disclosures within 45 days of leaving
that state position. Currently, if that employee left their job before the disclosure
deadline, then they wouldn’t have to file a financial disclosure at all. Continue Reading →

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PUC releases confidential transcript in wind energy case

A proposal for a joint venture that would undertake major construction of wind towers across the state and region has encountered more regulatory complications, a week after reports were published that state officials recommended the proposal be turned down.  

The state’s Public Utilities Commission (PUC) was set to decide on Jan. 31 whether the proposal by First Wind, Emera Inc. (the Nova Scotia-based parent company of Bangor Hydro and Maine Public Service) and Ontario-based Algonquin Power and Utilities Corp. could move ahead. But that meeting has been indefinitely postponed while attorneys for the deal’s proponents and opponents wrestle over actions taken by First Wind and Bangor Hydro over the last week. Continue Reading →

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