Looking back, Maine Public Radio host Jennifer Rooks recalls a series of connections that led her to settle in Maine — and one improbably lucky break that made it possible. Growing up in Atlanta, she and her family often vacationed in Camden, where her parents eventually moved. After college, she took a job as a “news messenger” at a San Francisco TV station — a gig that, true to its name, had her ferrying guests and videotapes to and from the airport — and enrolled at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. That’s where she met her future husband, Portland native Mike Moran.
During her subsequent stint as a TV reporter and producer in California, Rooks’s husband would sometimes prod her to look for jobs in Portland. So while visiting her parents for Christmas in 1993, she set up a casual meeting with the news director at Portland’s WCSH. As it happened, reporter Jane Skinner (now Skinner Goodell, wife of NFL commissioner Roger Goodell) had given her notice that very day; the director hired Rooks on the spot to take her place.
Other Favorite Place
Husband Mike’s perennially expanding perennial gardens
Two regional Edward R. Murrow Awards — in 1998, for coverage of Maine National Guard soldiers deployed overseas, and 2003, for the documentary Citizen King, about then-governor Angus King.
Taking Maine Calling on the road to Aroostook County in 2017
Today, Rooks is known to Maine Public Radio listeners as the host of the station’s flagship call-in program, Maine Calling. Some 18,000 listeners tune in every weekday to hear her amiably discussing topics that range from marijuana regulations to Maine’s aging workforce to the history of termites with expert guests and curious callers. “People talk about the two Maines,” the 53-year-old journalist says, “but when we do Maine Calling, there are no two Maines. We will literally get calls from Fort Kent and then Kittery, Eastport then Bridgton. I love that, because it’s bringing the state together and building community.”
For the last 21 years, Cape Elizabeth has been Rooks’s more immediate community. She and her daughter, Julia, who’s 17, have always loved the town’s famous beaches, but a teenager’s life isn’t necessarily conducive to whiling away hours at the shore with Mom. So the two started a simple ritual of driving to Kettle Cove to catch the sunset. “Sometimes we walk Crescent Beach, other times we zip over for two minutes and stay in the parking lot,” Rooks says. “A big part of it is that teenagers love Instagram, and she always takes pretty photos.” In summers past, Rooks sometimes made morning visits for a quick dip. “As the sun rises,” she says, “it makes a beam through the water that you can swim in — it’s the most magical experience.”