The Maine Pro Chapter of SPJ was started by a group of Maine journalists in the early 1980s. They tired of trekking to Boston for SPJ gatherings and were interested in being more active in protecting and improving journalism in this state. Its founding members included James Russell Wiggins, former editor of the Washington Post, and later, publisher of the Ellsworth American; Brooks Hamilton, who helped write Maine’s groundbreaking “Right to Know” law in the late 1950s; Bob Steele, one of the nation’s leading experts on journalism ethics; and many other reporters, editors, anchors and newsroom managers from print and broadcast.
Through the years, the chapter has sponsored many professional development programs, including writing workshops aimed at both print and broadcast journalists. It has tapped local media attorneys for primers on the state of law as it applies to journalists in Maine. The chapter has organized meetings with public safety officials and judges so that all can develop better working relationships. There have been seminars on Freedom of Information laws and post-election forums for the telling of “war stories.” And the occasional social get-together.
In the early 2000s, Maine Pro Chapter leaders brought together representatives of many different interest groups to form the Maine Freedom of Information Coalition (http://www.mfoic.org/). Its efforts, including two statewide FOI audits, have prompted the legislature to enact several significant pro-access laws in the past decade. They include required training in FOI law for government officials and a 10-year review of all the exceptions to the Maine Freedom of Access Act.
Members and officers of the Maine Pro Chapter have appeared at legislative hearings and lobbied for improved access laws and for a state shield law for journalists, which was enacted in 2008.
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