The Spectator

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Learn how to be your own watchdog!

As investigative reporters we use lots of tools to find out things. Our new website, “Be Your Own Watchdog,” is where we hand those tools over to you so you can figure out for yourself how our government works. Staff from the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting will be at the Winslow Public Library on Thursday, Oct. 25 at 6:30 to introduce “Be Your Own Watchdog” and talk about investigative reporting in Maine. Come learn about how reporters at the Center dig for stories, and then take home some of those investigative tools yourself! Continue Reading →

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Veteran media executives join journalism board

Nick Mills

A distinguished editor and a former public broadcasting executive have joined the board of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting (MCPIR) as the Hallowell-based organization nears its second anniversary. Matthew V. Storin, the former editor of the Boston Globe, the Chicago Sun-Times, the New York Daily News and Maine Times, recently retired to Camden. He said, “I’m excited about supporting a much-needed, high-quality investigative journalism venture in Maine. When one considers the state of journalism nationally today, there is much to be pessimistic about. Fortunately, MCPIR is a bold strike in the opposite direction.”

Gordon Lutz of Holden retired in 2008 as Director of Corporate Support at Maine Public Broadcasting, where he worked for eight years. Continue Reading →

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Center’s Christie immersed in public pensions

From last Wednesday night to 2 AM Friday, it was nothing but return on investments, discount rates, defined benefits and unfunded actuarial liabilities. It was everything you ever wanted to know about public pensions — and then some. I spent those days as a fellow at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers conference on public pensions at the Walter Cronkite Center at Arizona State in Phoenix. The 20-plus fellows heard from other journalists who’d been covering the topic, from pension board members, pension administrators and other experts in one of the perhaps driest topics, but also one that threatens almost every state’s budget. The sessions were well-received by everyone because I know I and others picked up at least half a dozen good story ideas that will help our readers understand this crucially important issue. Continue Reading →

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Center establishes an ethics policy

On Nov. 10, the board of directors of The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting approved the following ethics policy for the Center:

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting provides high-quality investigative journalism to its client newspapers and media outlets. As a non-profit corporation, the Center lacks the traditional wall between news and revenues found in most for-profit news organizations. The credibility of the Center depends on establishing and maintaining a reputation for independent, non-partisan and non-ideological journalism, and readers and client media outlets must be confident that the Center’s news decisions are not influenced by its funders or board members. The Center has therefore adopted the following policies for its board members, fundraising and news staff. Continue Reading →

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New website, new logo — and new dog

While our last story was published about five weeks ago, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has not been idle, except for that humid stretch when we regretted selling the air conditioner at a yard sale and our inner watchdog laid down in front of the nearest fan. Here’s the latest from our Hallowell HQ:

You’re looking at our new website, designed by a group call “Sleepover” based in San Francisco. The idea was to achieve a look that showed the content in a clean, ordered way; chose colors that suited our Maine locale; and added new features. It’s not finished yet — more content will be added over the coming weeks. Former newspaper colleague and “up-the-street” neighbor Ben Sturtevant will continue to be our web consultant. Continue Reading →

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From the barnyard to the statehouse, all in a day’s work for a reporter

In the fall of 1967, I dropped into my college newspaper’s office and asked for a tryout to be a reporter. The staff seemed older, busier and worldlier than the 18-year-old sophomore who stood before them. The assignment they gave me was probably the one no one else wanted — coverage of the annual livestock competition at the aggie school. You’d think that a New Hampshire kid like me would know something about farming, but I came from a mill town, not one of those tiny New England farming villages. I could change the head on a ’54 Chevy and hit a set shot from 30 feet out, but my knowledge of farm animals began and ended with telling a bull from a cow. Continue Reading →

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The birth and death of an acronym

Everything you see here is new as of today, Jan. 7, 2010. A new organization for a new year — presenting its first story. The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting is perhaps not as grand as its name — just yet. Right now, it’s just one full-time “employee” — me — and an advisory board. Continue Reading →

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Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting launches

In recent years, most newspaper and broadcast news outlets in Maine have reduced newsroom staffs through layoffs, early retirements and attrition. One of 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-around 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. Continue Reading →

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