Donna Perry, Reporter
Sun Journal, Lewiston Maine
Donna was nominated by her executive editor, Judy Meyer who stated, in her heartfelt letter, that Donna truly embodies Sun-Journal’s stated values of compassion, fairness, and community values.
In the past year, Donna has produced more than 600 stories. Yep, we counted bylines in our database. That’s roughly 50 stories a month, or 11 to 12 each week.
That’s because Donna covers the Franklin County Commission, all things courts and cops, she’s the first out the door for breaking news, she covers municipal government in four towns, she writes features, and is a regular photo contributor. She also coaches other reporters in our Farmington bureau and routinely reads staff stories as they’re posted to the web and calls in corrections on typos and errors to the desk before the material goes to print. (Her penchant for accuracy has saved us real embarrassment a number of times.)
According to Mary Delamater, our senior copy editor who has worked with Donna for more than 25 years, Donna “digs and digs and digs for information to get as many details as possible from as many sources as possible, whether from contacts with people or combing the web. Those details make the difference between a so-so story and a great story that serves readers. In addition, she shares her knowledge, resources, and experiences with new writers, sharing her passion through mentoring.”
In addition to all of this, Donna is also one helluva fighter when it comes to public access.
Once, while covering a routine superior court hearing, Donna was surprised the judge and the lawyers were in chambers for so long, supposedly conducting a pre-trial conference. When they finally emerged, the judge told the stenography to enter a guilty plea from the defendant into the record. Then, the parties prepared to leave the room.
Donna stood up and asked what happened, and the judge said that as long as the parties were all in her chambers they just decided to continue the hearing in there.
Donna balked, telling the judge that wasn’t proper. That all court proceedings, including pleas, were to be heard in open court and on the record. For a couple of seconds, everyone stared at her, and then the judge called a re-do and properly heard the plea in open court.
Another time, days after the Farmington School District’s Board of Directors held an executive session, Donna learned that directors had taken action on a hire behind closed doors. She reached out to the board chair with an objection, reminding her any action was to be held in open session.
At the next meeting, the board publicly voted on the hire and the board chair issued a public apology to Donna for the board’s illegal vote.