This week veteran journalist Mal Leary will end his 45-year career, during which he became one of the most well-known and recognizable voices in Maine.
Leary, a political correspondent, will sign off of Maine Public Radio for the last time Friday, according to the Portland Press Herald. Recognizable by his gruff, straight-forward delivery, Leary’s reporting brought him to newspapers, radios and TV stations across the state, including a news service he started himself.
On Monday, journalists and leaders praised Leary, 70, for his storied career.
“I would go for the sexy story, but Mal wouldn’t, he always had the long game in mind. He wouldn’t take some stories if it meant blowing up a relationship he’d need with a contact somewhere down the road,” A. Jay Higgins, a retired Bangor Daily News and Maine Public journalist who worked with Leary, told the Press Herald.
Higgins said Leary would never take cheap shots at politicians and would opt for stories that didn’t seem flashy, but affected Mainers’ everyday lives, such as those about the Maine Public Utilities Commission or the Legislature’s appropriations committee.
In a statement submitted to the Congressional Record last week, U.S. Sen. Angus King — who was governor when Leary was the State House bureau chief for Maine Public — praised the veteran journalist for his “diligent, inquisitive journalism that has kept our state’s citizens better informed.”
“When listeners heard Mal’s distinctive Maine rasp come across the airwaves, they knew they were getting the straight news from a model journalist,” King wrote. “His integrity and intelligence came through in every story, diving into the policy details in a measured, well-reasoned way that did not betray a bias toward any ideology, political party, or elected officials.”
Growing up in Veazie, Leary started his career as a print reporter for the United Press International wire service in the 1970s. He started his own outlet, Capitol News Service, in 1983, which delivered state government news to other newspapers and radio stations around Maine. In 1995, he became the State House bureau chief for Maine Public, but returned to the Capitol News Service in 2012. Finally, he returned to Maine Public to serve as the managing editor for the TV network’s “Capitol Connection” political coverage.
A University of Maine graduate, Leary — who majored in political science — told the Press Herald that professors and textbooks didn’t teach him the way the government actually works.
“They tell you that facts are gathered and the best decision for all is made. That is absolutely not true. It’s a lot of personal experience, people voting against bills because they were mad another legislator didn’t vote for their bill,” Leary said. “But I’ve seen people from very different view points work together to get bills passed, too.”