BAR HARBOR — The Maine Seacoast Mission last Friday presented its 2017 Sunbeam Awards for outstanding contributions to Down East coastal communities to Robin Alden, co-founder and executive director of the Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries; Alan Baker, publisher of the Mount Desert Islander and The Ellsworth American; and Islander Editor Earl Brechlin.
Also at the awards banquet at the Bar Harbor Club, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins announced that a “Sense of the Senate” resolution that she introduced, titled “Tribute to Alan Baker and Earl Brechlin,” had been entered into the Congressional Record.
For more than 40 years, Alden has been a leader in supporting Maine’s coastal fisheries and in forging productive relationships among fishermen, scientists and government agencies. In all of her work, she has focused on assuring sustainable fisheries and thriving fishing communities.
Alden was commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources in the administration of Gov. Angus King.
In 2003, she co-founded the Stonington-based Penobscot East Resource Center, which this spring changed its name to the “Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries.” Under Alden’s leadership as executive director, the organization has established innovative programs that create “a place where fishermen’s knowledge becomes part of science and where their voices can become a constructive and creative part of the management dialogue.”
Alden founded a regional trade newspaper, Commercial Fishing News, in 1973 and served as its publisher and editor for 20 years.
She has received numerous awards, including the Visionary Award of the Gulf of Maine Council on the Marine Environment and, earlier this year, the Hero of the Seas Peter Benchley Ocean Award.
Seacoast Mission President Scott Planting said in presenting the Sunbeam Award to Alden, “Your work has always been about bringing people together, to get to know and trust each other and to create sustainable fishery communities. So, when thoughtful people wonder where to look for hope, we look to you.”
Baker and Brechlin
Planting said this year’s other Sunbeam Award recipients, Baker and Brechlin, have made “an enormous difference in the communities of Mount Desert Island and surrounding islands through their commitment to the highest standard of journalism and the importance of a well-informed citizenry.”
He noted that the Islander has won many state, regional and national awards.
“But more importantly, it has earned the trust of the people of the communities it serves,” he said.
Calling Baker “the consummate newsman,” Planting said, “You are devoted to the stewardship of a free press that is fair, accurate and objective. You are untiring in your zeal to give readers the tools necessary to exercise their right of citizenship and make informed decisions about issues facing our community and region.”
Baker is a former chairman of the Seacoast Mission’s board of directors and a former member of the Maine legislature.
Following successful careers in publishing in Philadelphia and New York, he returned to his native Maine and, in 1986, joined the management team of The Ellsworth American. He purchased the newspaper in 1991.
Baker started the Islander in 2001 after recruiting Brechlin, who already had 20 years of experience covering Mount Desert Island, to be editor of the new newspaper.
This fall, Baker will be inducted into the Maine Press Association Hall of Fame.
Brechlin has served as president of both the Maine Press Association and the New England Press Association. He is a former recipient of the Maine Press Association’s Journalist of the Year Award.
In presenting the Sunbeam Award, Planting called Brechlin “the ultimate professional newspaper man: energetic, curious, judicious and totally immersed in the life of this island and the outer islands.”
Addressing Brechlin, he said, “You understand that a local newspaper can shape a community. You call that work ‘a sacred trust.’ As editor of the Islander, you want to give people a public forum for accurate, in-depth, unbiased information so that they can make decisions about their lives and their community.”
The U.S. Senate resolution that Collins introduced pays tribute to Baker and Brechlin for making the Islander “a great example of the value provided by community newspapers.”
It also notes that Baker and Brechlin have something in common with the Seacoast Mission, which supports island and coastal communities in Down East Maine and “helps connect people in those communities with essential services and with each other.”
“Through their dedication to the craft of journalism, Alan Baker and Earl Brechlin have strengthened that support and those community connections, and the Sunbeam Award is a fitting recognition of their many contributions.”