Naomi Schalit, co-founder of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, is retiring to pursue independent writing projects.
Schalit, 59, was most recently the senior reporter with the independent, nonprofit news service based at the Maine State House. Previously, she had been publisher and executive director of the Center, which she began in 2009 with her husband, John Christie.
“My eight years with the Center have been some of the most gratifying of my career,” said Schalit. “John and I started this organization at our kitchen table and built it, with our board, into an award-winning and respected organization with a stable financial foundation.
“But after eight years of running a start-up and doing everything from writing stories to fundraising to changing the ink cartridges, the time has come to slow down a bit and concentrate on what I enjoy the most — writing.”
John Christie, co-founder, will continue his work with the Center, as Consulting Editor.
Jed Davis, president of the Center’s board of directors, said: “Naomi’s leadership in holding officials accountable and expanding investigative reporting throughout Maine media has been critically important to the state. Her work and her voice will be missed, but we appreciate the strong foundation she has built for the future of Pine Tree Watch.”
Davis noted that during Schalit’s tenure the Center has published more than 250 investigative stories, most of which she wrote or co-wrote with Christie, and that garnered multiple awards for the best work of any New England news operation. While at the Center, she was awarded two Publick Occurrences awards, for “LD 1750: A study in how special interests get their way in the Maine Legislature” and, with Christie, for “RX for theft,” about pharmacists who steal drugs.
Her work at the Center exposed favoritism in the awarding of state energy grants, millions in state funding going to groups associated with sitting legislators, the failure of the state to clean up homes infested with poisonous lead paint and the social and economic crisis caused by the exponential growth in the percentage of children born to single parents.
“That’s just a sampling of the deeply researched and courageous work done by Naomi,” said Davis. “We will miss her but understand she felt the time was right to go on to the next phase of her career.”
“We’re grateful,” Davis said, “that she agreed to be available for the balance of the year for her advice and counsel.”
Schalit’s career included stints as opinion editor at the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, where she won national recognition for her series on hunger in Maine, and as a reporter-producer at Maine Public Radio, a writer for the Maine Times and a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News.