History of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting

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 has begun 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.

Naomi Schalit and John Christie, veteran journalists, founded the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting in 2009 because of their concern about the decline of, and need for, investigative reporting in Maine. Today, its investigative news service, Pine Tree Watch, 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. Daniel Dinsmore, the executive editor, 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) as well as online by the Center via its web site, pinetreewatch.org, 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 website.

The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit.