Jennifer Rooks

Public Affairs Host & Producer

Jennifer walked into her college radio station as a 17-year-old freshman and never looked back. Even though she was terrified of the microphone back then — and spoke into it as little as possible — she loved the studio, the atmosphere and, most of all, the people who work in broadcasting. She was hooked. Decades later, she’s back behind the radio microphone hosting Maine Public Radio’s flagship talk program, Maine Calling. She’s not afraid of the mic anymore, but still loves the bright, eclectic people she gets to work with every day.

Jennifer joined MPBN in June 2007 after spending more than 13 years at WCSH-TV in Portland as a general assignment reporter and weekend news anchor. She has twice won a regional Edward R. Murrow award: in 1998, for coverage of Maine National Guard and Reserve soldiers deployed in Bosnia and Hungary, and in 2003, for the documentary Citizen King, about then-governor and former Maine Watch host Angus King.

For six years, Jennifer served as host, reporter and executive producer of Maine Watch with Jennifer Rooks. She has moderated more than 20 broadcast debates for Maine Public Television and has produced three television documentaries: Broken Trust: Elder Abuse in Maine and Winds of Change, both Maine Watch Special Reports, and A Matter of Duty: The Continuing War Against PTSD. Co-produced with Charlie Stuart, A Matter of Duty has been shown on PBS television stations throughout the U.S. and in multiple screenings, including at the National Sheriff’s Association national conference.

Jennifer grew up outside Atlanta, Georgia. She earned her BA from the University of Virginia and her master’s in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley. She worked at television stations in San Francisco and Monterey, California, before coming to Maine. She and her husband Mike have two teenagers.

Ways to Connect

Call Me American is Abdi Nor Iftin's memoir about fleeing war-torn Somalia. While living under Islamic extremism, he escaped through American movies and music, using them as a tool to learn English. Befriending reporters to learn the language, Abdi ended up filing stories for NPR in secret and dreaming of a life in the U.S. Eventually, through a stroke of incredible luck, he gained entrance to America through the Diversity Visa Lottery. He is now a proud and legal resident of Maine, on the path to citizenship. 

Abdi Nor Iftin lives in Portland, Maine, where he works as an interpreter for Somalis who have immigrated to the state. Abdi was accepted to the University of Southern Maine, where he will be studying political science. 

Fred Bever / Maine Public

Now that the June primary is over - sort of - we turn to Maine Public's two political correspondents, Steve Mistler and Mal Leary, for some analysis of the results.  They spoke with Maine Calling host Jennifer Rooks earlier about some of Tuesday night's surprises - including, says Mistler, the Republican gubernatorial primary in which Shawn Moody got the nomination.

The Irish in Maine

Mar 16, 2018

On the eve of St. Patrick’s Day, we discuss the Irish in Maine. Irish immigrants came here at a time of economic and social change in the United States, working as longshoremen, factory workers, brewers and more. By the end of the 19th century, the Irish were an integral part of the Maine social fabric. Our guests include the executive director of the Irish Heritage Center and a well-known historian of the Irish diaspora in Maine.

Laura Smith/flickr creative commons

The growing dominance of social media in our lives, especially among young people, raises questions: When is it beneficial, and when is it harmful? What is it doing to our health and well-being?


Dr. Erin Belfort, Maine Medical Center Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Training Director

Dr. Christine Selby, Assoc. Professor of Psychology at Husson University's College of Science and Humanities

It’s not just the West Coast that should be worried about the potential devastation of an earthquake.  Acclaimed science journalist Kathryn Miles explains how humans have been making enormous changes to subterranean America, and why these could induce an earthquake in places we have

n’t imagined or expected.

Guest: Kathryn Miles, is the author of Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy.

Pat Wellenbach / Associated Press

If you think you are seeing more butterflies than usual, you’re right — it is a big year in Maine for two kinds of butterflies: monarchs and painted ladies.

One of the coordinators of the Maine Butterfly Survey, Dr. Herb Wilson of Colby College, says monarchs are having one of their best seasons in years. The executive director of the coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Bill Cullina, is excited about the butterflies, too.

Governor LePage has vetoed the solar energy bill that passed by a wide margin in the legislature.  The bill would keep “net metering” incentives in place, gradually reducing them over time, and it would lift the cap on the number of people involved in community solar farms   The legislature will likely vote on whether to override the Governor’s veto on Thursday.

Guests:  John Carroll/ Director of Communications for Iberdrola USA/CMP

Fortunat Mueller/ Co-Founder and Managing Partner of ReVision Energy

As we gear up to celebrate the nation’s birthday, we’re likely to hear the names of the founding fathers invoked in ceremony, or in spirited debates about how history informs the challenges of democracy today. Maine Public’s Jennifer Rooks spoke with author Kenneth C. Davis, about the writers of the Declaration of Independence, two of whom died on the very same fourth of July.

Live & Work in Maine

Apr 13, 2017

With Maine’s unemployment rate falling – it’s now 3.2% - Maine companies are having a hard time finding qualified employees.  There’s now a concerted effort to recruit more young people to move to Maine and build their careers and lives here.  Last month, some companies event took to the road, taking a bus to Boston to recruit potential employees! 

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press/file

Gov. Paul LePage is likely to highlight some of the key elements of his two-year budget plan in his annual State of the State address Tuesday night.

There are organizations all across Maine that accept and distribute donated goods, from furniture to business clothing.  We'll learn where to donate specific items, where these items end up, and who they help.

Guests: Jenn McAdoo, Executive Director, Furniture Friends

Troy Pattison, downsizing expert, SimplySized Home

Trendy Stanchfield, Senior Director, Mission Investment & Communication, Goodwill Industries of Northern New England

Omar Saif Ghobash is the United Arab Emirates Ambassador to Russia. His father, who was also a diplomat for the UAE, was assassinated when Omar was 6. Ghobash's book is a series of letters to his sons about what it means to be a Muslim in the 21st century.

Guests:  Omar Saif Ghobash, UAE Ambassador to Russia.

Reza Jalali, a Muslim author and scholar born in Iran who lives in Maine and is USM's coordinator of Multicultural affairs.

Deqa Dhalac, community builder with The Opportunity Alliance and member of the Somali Community Center of Maine.

This is a rebroadcast of one of our – and our listeners' – favorite programs. Get ideas for some great and unique Made in Maine gifts to give this holiday season.

Guests:  Alex Steed, Founding Partner at the content firm Knack Factory.

Laura Serino, Contributor to Down East magazine

Jenn Thompson, ambassador for Portland Buy Local

Tips on signing up for insurance under the Affordable Care Act. We will also discuss what might happen to Obamacare under a Trump administration.

Guests:  Ashley McCarthy, lead navigator with the WMCA consortium

Emily Brostek, Consumers for Affordable Health Care

Joanne Rawlings-Sekunda, director of Maine Insurance Bureau's Consumer Health Care unit

Julie Rovner, Robin Toner Distinguished Fellow with Kaiser Health News. Before joining KHN, she spent 16 years as health policy correspondent for NPR.

Rebecca Conley / Maine Public

Watch the debate between incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R) and Emily Cain (D); moderated by Maine Public's Jennifer Rooks.