Chris Cousins, a well-respected and veteran political reporter for the Bangor Daily News, died Wednesday of an apparent heart attack. He was 42.
A Maine native, Cousins was a major presence at multiple news organizations in the state during his two decades in journalism. He started out at the weekly Advertiser Democrat in Norway before joining The Times Record in the early 2000s, where he worked as a reporter and as city editor.
“I just can’t believe it,” former Times Record Publisher Doug Niven said. “It’s a blow to Maine journalism. …
“I remember when he came on board, how passionate he was. He was just so trusted. In talking to him, you never felt like you were getting the wool pulled over your eyes.”
Cousins, who graduated from Oxford Hills High School and recently moved to South Paris, won many Maine Press Association awards and received a Nieman Fellowship to study at Harvard University for a year. He left The Times Record to join the State House News Service before moving on to the Bangor Daily News in 2009.
Former colleagues also spoke highly of Cousins’ work and his character.
Times Record Business Editor Patrick Gabrion said Cousins was one of the best reporters he’d worked with in his 40 years of journalism.
“One of the things I remember about Chris was his jovial laugh. He was easy to get along with … he had that spark in his eye of a good-natured person,” Gabrion said. “Professionally speaking, you would look forward to one of Chris’ stories, because you knew it would be clear and complete.”
Robert Long, Cousins’ editor at the Bangor Daily News, echoed Gabrion’s assessment, saying Cousins was “a great journalist because he was a great person.”
Seth Koenig, the digital and visuals editor for the Bangor Daily News, first met Cousins in 2005 when they were covering Bath for rival publications, and later worked for him at The Times Record.
“When he was my editor there after returning from Harvard, he challenged me to be a better journalist, to hold public officials accountable and have a thick skin,” Koenig said. “To this day, I wish I could come close to being the journalist he was and that he coached me to be.”
The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting named Cousins as one of Maine’s 10 most-trusted journalists this year.
Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins were among the political figures from across Maine’s political spectrum who praised Cousins’ work and offered condolences to his family Wednesday.
“Chris was a consummate professional who embodied the best ideals of journalism: a devotion to the truth, a tenacious pursuit of stories important to Mainers, and a passion for the communities he served,” Collins and King said in a joint statement. “… Chris was a genuine, caring person and a true family man, and we are heartbroken for his wife and two young children.”
Long said Cousins died while helping a friend with carpentry.
He’s survived by his wife, Jen, and their sons Caleb, 13, and Lucas, 8.