Welcome to the Maine Morning Star
“Do you know how lucky we are to live here?”
My kids are sick of hearing this question, which I usually pose when we are grazing on wild blueberries on the shore of a pristine lake, or sitting by a beach bonfire watching the sunset, or getting fresh oysters delivered by a friend or some similar instance of mindblowing natural bounty and beauty that is part of everyday life for most, if you grow up in Maine.
It’s no secret that there is something special about our state. This is part of the reason that — since the French and subsequent settler colonizers arrived in the land of the Wabanaki — people “from away” have come to Maine to experience this natural richness. I understand why Mainers are notoriously wary of outsiders, who have a record of pillaging, polluting and taking the best (or trying to, in the case of one infamous New Jersey couple) for themselves.
Throughout the history of the state, Mainers have been left behind. It often has one of the highest rates of poverty in the region, particularly among children and seniors. Maine, specifically rural areas, lagged behind other states in recovering from the 2007 recession and for the past several years has had the highest rate of overdose deaths in the Northeast.
Right now, there is a lot to be hopeful about. By numerous measures, Maine escaped some of the worst health and economic impacts of the COVID pandemic. New U.S. Census data shows that since 2020 every county in the state saw a population increase as a result of migration, both domestic and international. Because of that growth, Maine was the only state in the country where every county gained income between 2020 and 2021, adding millions in taxable dollars to even the most remote parts of the state.
What’s more, from 2020 to 2021, Maine was also the only state in the country whose median age dropped. This means young people and families are coming here — and staying. For a state that has long been the oldest in the nation, this is good news for our ongoing workforce challenges.
We are having a moment, as they say. However, these promising indicators come amid spiking housing costs, regular sweeps of homeless encampments, and a dire lack of services for people with disabilities and behavioral health challenges, among other needs.
Lawmakers have a lot to do to ensure that our current prosperity and growth benefit everybody who call Maine home and that people who are willing to work hard and build community (not the Nazi kind, but that’s a whole other conversation) have what they need to thrive to help sustain the future of our state.
That’s where we come in.
Each member of our team — Evan Popp, Emma Davis, and AnnMarie Hilton — is committed to tracking the decisions made by those in power and highlighting the downstream impacts, focusing specifically on those experiencing them firsthand. And beyond just reporting what happens, we aim to explore the broader structural reasons for why things are the way they are and let readers know what they can do about it.
The stories we published today do just that. Evan speaks to Maine seniors struggling to afford their prescription drugs, who cannot wait for Medicare price negotiations to begin; Emma dives into the planning behind Gov. Janet Mills’ Office of New Americans; and AnnMarie looks at the impact that House Republicans’ proposed cuts to the federal budget will have on Maine’s schools and other government programs.
What’s more, being part of the extensive States Newsroom network means that not only will Maine Morning Star serve as a watchdog for our state, but we are able to connect what is happening here to a broader national context to help make sense of the political moment we are in.
I’ve worked in a variety of media during my almost two decades in the business of storytelling and I’m always thinking about the role of journalism in social justice and how different models can advance this goal. I’m very excited to be working with a nonprofit that is committed to independent, rigorous journalism focused explicitly on what is happening on the state level.
This model also means that we aren’t forced to compete with, but rather to complement, our peers in Maine media. We’ve seen what happens to coverage when outlets are pitted against each other for eyeballs and ad dollars. It either gets sensationalized or shut down. Being a nonprofit allows us to ensure that all of our stories are free to everyone, including other outlets, which are welcome to reprint our work so they can focus their staff and resources on finding important stories to tell.
If you want to support this kind of work, we accept donations and disclose all donors who contribute above $1,000.
Much like the original name of this place, Wabanakik, which roughly translates to “Dawnland,” Morning Star, for me, evokes the experience of standing on a rocky point on the far eastern edge of the continental U.S. as the sun begins its daily ecliptic across the sky. And from this place, the team at Maine Morning Star will each day provide a source of guidance and light.
We are lucky to be here.