Jake Bleiberg considers himself a naturally curious person, so journalism has proven to be a good fit.
While working at a bike shop in Montreal after finishing college, Bleiberg took a chance and submitted a story to the Montreal Gazette. He liked writing in college and had found something he wanted to write about. Although an editor at the paper told him the story was initially “kind of a mess,” Bleiberg rewrote it.
After a little editing, the paper ran the piece. And Bleiberg was hooked.
“I enjoyed the whole process and got the bug there,” he said.
Now 27, Bleiberg works in the Portland bureau of the Bangor Daily News, covering Maine’s biggest city. He’s been part of the paper’s ongoing coverage of the Long Creek Youth Development Center, where a teen’s suicide in 2016 sparked questions about whether the facility can handle some of the teens who are sent there.
“My and my colleagues’ work has really brought to public awareness the influx of young people with really serious mental illness into a prison where staff say they don’t have the training and capabilities to treat these children,” he said.
More recently, Bleiberg has written stories about an 11-year-old boy who says guards at the youth center knocked out two of his teeth, a claim that is disputed by corrections officials.
Recent Portland-based stories covered by Blieberg include lawsuits stemming from a deadly 2014 apartment fire that killed six, the planned expansion of Maine Medical Center, and sentences handed down for those convicted of elver poaching.
Bleiberg grew up mostly in northern New Jersey and went to college at McGill University in Montreal. After graduating in 2013, he stayed in the city to improve his ability to speak French.
An avid bicyclist and skier, he soon discovered that it was more fun to be out riding than it was to be fixing other people’s bikes. So he tried his hand at freelancing before taking a job at the Bangor Daily News about two years ago.
He believes journalists play an important role in society by gathering and disseminating information that helps readers make decisions about schools, housing and jobs. He knows he could make more money in another profession, but he truly enjoys his work.
“I think journalism plays an invaluable role in a society that is working to be open and democratic,” he said.
And while journalists sometimes take a lot of criticism, he believes Mainers understand the value of news.
“I’m optimistic that for all the noise that might be made against journalism as a profession or journalists, people here care about what’s going on and know where to turn if they want to know what’s happening,” he said. “I’m not too put out by the attacks on the press. I often think they are marks of us doing our jobs right.”
Photo by Sarah Rice
POSITION: Portland reporter for the Bangor Daily News
YEARS AT CURRENT JOB: 2
YEARS AS A JOURNALIST: I’ve been working as a journalist for a bit more than four years.
FAVORITE SOURCES FOR LOCAL NEWS: I see it as my job to compete with the Portland Press Herald, so I start every morning reading their top stories and the Bangor Daily News. I also think Maine Public does great work.
FAVORITE SOURCES FOR NATIONAL NEWS: After reading through the local headlines, I listen to the morning news podcasts from NPR and The New York Times. I subscribe to The New Yorker magazine and The Washington Post, and make a monthly donation to ProPublica.
ANY ADVICE FOR BEING A SMART NEWS CONSUMER: Look for corrections. Journalists work very hard to give the public factually accurate, contextually correct news. But sometimes we make mistakes. Look to see whether the news outlets you read, listen to or watch correct their errors in a full and transparent way. Doing so marks a commitment to the truth.
Susan Cover has been a journalist for 24 years, working at newspapers in Kansas, Rhode Island, Ohio and Maine.
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