Kindness can conquer darkness.
During a week of chaos and conflict, we want to take a moment and highlight the staggering generosity and overwhelming kindness of our community of readers.
The support of our donors and subscribers has propelled our independent nonprofit newsroom to new heights over the past year.
Thanks to your kindness, the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has expanded our newsroom, added resources and launched new products aimed at ensuring local journalism survives in the Pine Tree State.
Over the last two months, more than 400 people contributed to The Maine Monitor’s 2020 Sustainability Campaign. Your kindness has helped us raise over $45,000 since Nov. 1 and allowed us to unlock $25,000 in matching grants from NewsMatch and the Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation.
As a nonprofit, we funnel this money directly into our journalism. In 2020, we used support from donors and Maine-based foundations to expand our editorial team and to launch The Maine Monitor brand.
We have added three full-time journalists to our staff in the last year:
- Managing Editor Meg Robbins started in February, just weeks before the pandemic crept into Maine.
- Staff Reporter Katie Brown joined our team in June to cover energy and the environment.
- And Rose Lundy joined The Maine Monitor in July to cover public health and the impact of COVID-19.
The expansion of our staff coincided with a decision to change our editorial brand. In August, we launched The Maine Monitor and retired the “Pine Tree Watch” brand.
At the same time we adopted a new mission statement that better reflects our organization and the critical role legitimate, independent journalism plays in a healthy democracy:
The Maine Monitor exists to deliver fearless, independent, citizen-supported, nonpartisan journalism that informs Mainers about the issues impacting our state and inspires them to take action. Through investigative and in-depth stories, we engage readers to participate and connect to create a better Maine.
Our roots as a watchdog news organization run deep and we remain committed to high-quality accountability journalism. Our growing team tackled several impact stories and journalism projects in 2020.
Senior Reporter Samantha Hogan partnered with ProPublica on a year-long investigation into the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services. Through extensive interviews, records requests and data reporting, she documented how the agency charged with defending the poor disproportionately hired attorneys with bar complaints, histories of sexual harassment and criminal conduct.
The stories had a significant impact. Within a week of publication of the first stories, Maine Gov. Janet Mills called for a bipartisan effort to reform Maine’s approach to defending the poor. Officials overseeing the agency recommended doubling its budget and increasing the number of staff employed — including hiring its first dedicated public defenders. In November, the agency’s executive director announced his resignation. For the first time in more than a decade, Maine began discussing in earnest how best to ensure a robust defense for the state’s poor who are accused of crimes.
Criminal justice reform was also the subject of a 10-part series on Maine’s county court system produced by reporters Susan Cover and Julie Pike early last year. Our Due Process project examined whether the state’s criminal justice system is fair and equitable for all Maine citizens.
We have covered the coronavirus with a steady stream of investigative and enterprise stories, extensive multimedia projects and a daily newsletter aimed at keeping Mainers informed while providing in-depth news and analysis on this crippling pandemic.
We are lucky to work with amazing freelance journalists like Barbara Walsh. Barbara’s dogged reporting has produced some of the state’s most impressive journalism on the impact of COVID-19.
In May, Barbara produced a four-story package on the grief epidemic created by the first wave of the virus. Her Last Responders series introduced readers to the overwhelming struggle facing those dealing with death during the pandemic.
In August, Barbara wrote about Maine Gov. Janet Mills and how a debilitating spinal condition as a teen prepared her to handle her critics during an incredibly divisive year.
Barbara covered the fallout from August’s now notorious East Millinocket super-spreader event with a series of investigative stories focused on connected deaths at a Madison nursing home and the defiance of Sanford pastor Todd Bell, who ignored state and local orders aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19.
Last month, Barbara wrote about the good deeds Mainers have done for each other during this difficult year and chronicled the poignant last night of a couple who had been married for 52 years.
We produced several multimedia projects on the pandemic. Data reporter Darren Fishell produced a COVID-19 data dashboard that’s been updated every day since April. Julie Pike and Meg Robbins created an interactive timeline of the virus in Maine and Bailey Beltramo produced a 30-episode video series on the impact the pandemic had on Maine’s class of 2020.
We covered the Black Lives Matter protests this summer with live updates on our site and through our Instagram page and examined the role of Black-owned businesses on Maine’s economy. Jordan Bailey analyzed public data and found that Black Mainers are less likely to own a business than white residents, and those who do report earning substantially less money than white peers.
Marina Schauffler wrote extensively in the fall about the development of Maine’s Climate Action Plan in her Sea Change column. Environmental reporter Katie Brown covered the impact of last year’s drought on Aroostook County’s potato industry and investigated dark money’s influence in the campaign to support Central Maine Power Co.’s proposed clean energy corridor.
And, we launched Chasing Maine, a bi-weekly video series produced by veteran Maine journalist Roger McCord that explores the people, places and things that define the unique character of our state.
All of this work is possible because of the kindness of our growing community of readers and supporters. Thank you for your belief in accountability journalism and your faith in our little nonprofit newsroom.
We’re excited to keep working for you in 2021. Happy New Year from The Maine Monitor team.