Throughout his 45 years as a journalist, Don Carrigan has covered it all — high school basketball games, local school boards, horse races, homicides and presidential elections.
Is there anything he hasn’t covered?
Halibut fishing. Don’t worry, it’s on his list.
Carrigan, a reporter and Statehouse bureau chief for NEWS CENTER Maine, considers himself lucky to have seen and reported on so much throughout his career. And the 66-year-old isn’t done yet.
“I feel lucky,” he said. “When I started out as a reporter, some of the old Maine was still there. I’m grateful I got to see a little bit of that before it went away.”
By “old Maine,” Carrigan means shoe shops, textile mills, loggers and farmers. As a boy growing up in South Bristol, Carrigan said he didn’t know much about how government functioned or how a sardine cannery worked. But he is fascinated by people’s stories and that curiosity has never left him.
After getting a degree in speech from the University of Maine in 1974, Carrigan got his start at a Bangor radio station and by writing newscasts part-time for public broadcasting. As part of his job, he filled in on-air for people who were on vacation, including at Channel 2, the local television station. It wasn’t long before he got hired there full time.
Carrigan subsequently made his way to Portland to produce a news magazine, later becoming news director. His career took a three-year detour in the early 1990s when he went to work for U.S. Sen. William Cohen of Maine, who later became Secretary of Defense. Carrigan was based in Maine but spent some time in Washington, D.C.
But he missed journalism and got back into the field with Maine Public Broadcasting (Now known as Maine Public). In 2003, he joined Channel 6, where he covers politics and sometimes reports during snowstorms from his kitchen table in South Bristol, in the home where he grew up.
The business of television news has changed dramatically over the span of his career. When he got started, there were three major networks and public broadcasting to choose from for news. Now, with a 24-hour news cycle and cable news programming, viewers have a lot more options when it comes to finding out what’s going on. Carrigan said that makes it all the more important that local news reporters do their jobs well.
“People desperately need a source that’s credible and tested over time,” he said. “The basic thing people need is accurate, correct information so they can understand things.”
Carrigan thinks Mainers are unique for their abiding interest in the welfare of others. An example of that, he said, was the statewide response to the death of Somerset County Sheriff’s Deputy Cpl. Eugene Cole, who was killed in the line of duty in April.
“It was astonishing, the impact of that,” he said.
Even as television and newspapers work to find ways to make money and compete, Carrigan is hopeful there will always be a place for good journalism.
“Everyone in this business is trying to figure out, what’s the future?” he said. “What do we do? Where and how will most people be consuming news and information? How do you remain a trusted source of information people will seek out?”
In a nutshell …
POSITION: Reporter and Statehouse bureau chief, NEWS CENTER Maine (WCSH/WLBZ)
YEARS AT CURRENT EMPLOYER: 15
YEARS AS A JOURNALIST: 45
FAVORITE SOURCES FOR LOCAL NEWS: I check a number of online and on-air sources. But also put high value on talking to and checking with local people. Asking “what else is going on?”
FAVORITE SOURCES FOR NATIONAL NEWS: NPR, NBC, The Hill
ADVICE FOR BEING A SMART NEWS CONSUMER: Check several news organizations whenever you can. Try to find ones that use multiple sources of information … Not single-source stories. Understand that there is a difference between negative stories and “fake news,” but realize there is much, especially online, about which you should be skeptical.
Seek news sources that try to be consistently fair and explore all sides of stories as evenly as possible. Include sources of information that challenge your personal beliefs. Final advice: Read history. It helps you understand the news.