BAR HARBOR — Steve Collins came to the Sun Journal in August 2016, eight months after he walked off his job at The Bristol Press in Connecticut.

On Saturday, Collins was named Maine Press Association’s Journalist of the Year.

Steve Collins

Sun Journal State House Reporter Steve Collins

A journalist for more than two decades, Collins resigned from The Bristol Press on Christmas Eve 2015 as soon as he learned the newspaper’s owner, Michael Schroeder, published a plagiarized article under a fake byline.

His actions earned him praise in journalism circles across the country, and Collins was awarded the 2016 Ethics in Journalism Award from the National Society of Professional Journalists and the I.F. Stone Whistle-Blower Award. But, he was unemployed and looking for work.

“His job search brought him to our newsroom in Lewiston, for which we will always be grateful,” according to Sun Journal Executive Editor Judith Meyer.

Collins was assigned the politics and legislative beat when he was hired, covering lawmakers and bills in the Legislature as well as Maine’s Congressional District 2 candidates and issues.


But it’s all the things Collins does that have nothing to do with his beat that begin to define him, Meyer said.

He is the first to volunteer to fill in on someone’s beat when that person is on vacation, take a weekend cop shift when the police reporter is out, write up a breaking fire story if there’s too much news happening, and is always helping a fellow reporter brainstorm or come up with an angle, a source, a good question, a helpful approach to a tough interview or a worthy perspective. He’s a stellar co-worker, she said.

Collins is a voracious reader — of everything. And his news antenna is huge for stories that will get people reading, and then he writes them in a highly readable way.

For instance, a New York paper ran a story about the murder of former rapper Alpo Martinez in Harlem, New York, on Halloween night last year, and Collins picked up on a line in that story reporting the man was in witness protection in Lewiston. This is a man believed to have killed at least 14 people during his drug reign, and it was shocking to think he had been living blocks from the Sun Journal’s office.

Collins packed up his notepad and walked downtown and started knocking on doors. It seems Martinez’s former neighbors were only too happy to talk about the man, a person who they knew to be a kind, helpful, funny and loving person.

Collins pieced together a portrait of this man’s life in Lewiston and who he hung out with. It was simply a fascinating read.


Collins is the king of the quirk. His stories include one on rumors of the Chinese invading Maine’s border and another on St. Agatha residents worrying that cult leader Gary Blankenship will take over the town.

And of the gruesome: He wrote a series of stories detailing patient complaints of horrible pain and fear brought against local dentist Jan Kippax, and another series on a local cremation service provider who was shut down by the state after rotting bodies were found in his facility.

Regarding the latter, Collins kept careful focus on Affordable Cremation Solutions in Lewiston, and on the pain the owner caused the families of the dead, and reported as each of the families filed suit against the man. Meyer said, “The grief these families endured is unimaginable, and Steve made sure our readers knew what had happened, when the state scheduled hearings on the matter and what those results were.”

According to Mark Mogensen, managing editor/days, “among Steve’s many qualities, the one I respect the most has nothing to do with his many talents as a writer, as a researcher, as a communicator, as a trusted co-worker or a knowledgeable journalist. It’s his fundamental understanding of how important local journalism is to all of us. His regard for the truth and accuracy.

“For community newspapers to first and foremost be trustworthy and reliable and honest, so that the community can rely on them for unbiased information. I think Steve starts every day off with that premise, because it shows in everything he does.”

The Sun Journal is celebrating its 175th birthday this year and, over the past several months, “we have leaned on Steve mercilessly to honor our history through his reporting,” Meyer said. “He has an uncanny ability to uncover enormously interesting historical tidbits, and our goal this year was to pore back through our papers and highlight our historical coverage so we — our staff and our readers — can truly appreciate the breadth of our journalism over the years, and the impact that our newspaper has had on the community through major and minor news events here and around the world.”


As part of the newspaper’s birthday celebration, Collins has written a gripping multi-piece story of the 1873 murder of Lizzie Lowell in Lewiston. It was a murder trial that fascinated the nation, and Collins read through the Lewiston Evening Journal coverage and decided to branch out and find other sources from public records, libraries, historical societies and the like to write the stories behind that story. The piece was initially well over 20,000 words, so Meyer said the staff decided to serialize “The Mystery of the Headless Skeleton: The story of Maine’s most spectacular murder case.”

The first chapter was published Sunday, May 22, and will continue each Sunday through the end of the year.

Collins’ commitment to journalism extends beyond the Sun Journal’s newsroom to the entire world through his devotion to Youth Journalism International, an educational, nonprofit charity that teaches journalism to young people around the globe.

Founded in 1994 by Steve and his wife, Jackie Majerus-Collins, Youth Journalism International has published work from all seven continents and has never charged a young person to participate. Students have tackled tough topics including gun violence in school, terrorism, mental health, sexual assault and more, while reaping the benefit of the couple’s example and coaching.

Earlier this year, the couple led the organization’s first Global Conference. Set in Istanbul, it drew 20 youth from Cyprus, Colombia, Iran, Mexico, Pakistan, the UK, Sweden, Ukraine, the United States and Turkey.

Collins’ ethics and integrity stretch back more than 30 years to his first job as a daily newspaper reporter, when he worked for The Citizen in Auburn, New York, and where he risked going to jail rather than expose a source who had given him a hospital lab slip proving an off-duty state trooper was drunk when he crashed his car late one night.


Collins exposed not only the trooper’s own conduct but also the trooper’s co-workers who looked the other way rather than arrest one of their own. When Collins was subpoenaed to provide the lab slip and the name of his source, he refused, citing his First Amendment right to practice journalism and protect his source.

In this situation, Collins not only upheld the highest ethics of his profession, but educated readers about press freedom and the importance of a local newspaper’s role in uncovering the truth. And, he was awarded the Selwyn Kershaw Award, the top award from the Syracuse Press Club, for risking jail to protect a confidential source.

His commitment to press freedom and the First Amendment never wavers, and his leadership in our newsroom and his support of his peers is exceptional, Meyer said.

Collins hold a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Virginia.

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