Civic Pride & Community Building: What We Heard in Lewiston

On April 18th, Maine Public’s Tell Me More Tour visited Androscoggin County, hosting a public event at Maine Public’s Studio in Lewiston.

We were pretty excited to launch our Tell Me More Tour right from our own studio in Lewiston. We thought this was a great spot to choose so we could work out any and all bugs close by before we hit the proverbial highway. Well, our worries were unfounded as a wonderful community discussion resulted from the evening event.

Maine Public News Director Mark Simpson (right) and reporter Robbie Feinberg discuss the issues in our Lewiston studios.
Credit Rebecca Conley / Maine Public

Hosted by News Director Mark Simpson with news staff Robbie Feinberg, Ed Morin, and Andrew Catalina in attendance, the event started with Robbie and Mark discussing the Maine Public News series Finding A Way that details how teenagers and young adults in Maine face challenges that are increasingly difficult to navigate. Robbie shared his findings with the group, telling attendees of some of the challenges homeless youth face in terms of not only getting to and attending school, but in securing food and being safe. It was a sobering discussion with some insightful questions from the group.

We found out that what is important to this community is… the community itself. Yes, there are challenges that the Lewiston/Auburn area faces, but it is a “dynamic and vital place” with limitless potential. Attendees pointed out that Lewiston is Maine’s second largest city and are perplexed that it is largely overlooked. There is a “Lewiston stereotype” that attendees told us is completely inaccurate and that the news media typically only cover stories in the area that are negative – which further reinforces the reputation of these cities.

Maine Public News reporter Ed Morin takes notes during the Tell Me More Tour.
Credit Rebecca Conley / Maine Public

But, of course, the group acknowledged that there are some serious issues facing the region. Opioids, economic opportunities, access to affordable healthcare, the lack of a robust public transportation network, high lead levels, and a need for financial literacy programs were all pointed to as prevalent issues.

But this group was very optimistic that what you see now in terms of the arts scene, community partnerships, and the infrastructure of the area is only the beginning of what Lewiston and Auburn will look like in the years ahead. The vibrant immigrant community and all the knowledge that they are bringing to the area will, one attendee noted, prove to be a catalyst for dramatic growth in the area.

Participants at the Tell Me More Tour in Maine Public's Lewiston Studios
Credit Rebecca Conley / Maine Public

The attendees encouraged our news team to “focus on the good stories” happening each day in the area – community partnerships finding success and making a difference, new businesses taking root, the integration of the immigrant community into the community at large, and the civic pride that they feel is widespread and palpable.

Thank you Lewiston and Auburn for participating in our first Tell Me More stop. We’ll share your suggestions and insights with our larger news team and communicate your passion for your community.