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

How big of a problem is food waste in Maine and in the US?  We’ll learn about the dimensions of the problem and get tips on wasting less and putting what we don’t eat to good use.

Guests:  Brett Richardson, General Manager of We Compost It!

Christine Beling, Project Engineer, Assistance and Pollution Prevention Unit for the EPA.  She’ll discuss the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge. 

Jennifer deHart, Chief Sustainability Officer with Unity College

Witty and engaging Pulitzer Prize-winning author Richard Russo discusses his new novel, “Everybody's Fool,” a sequel to his 1993 novel, “Nobody's Fool.”  We’ll also ask him about his approach to writing and Maine’s literary community.

Guests: Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize winning author of “Empire Falls” and numerous other books.

We discuss the role of the independent – both the independent voter and the potential for an independent presidential candidate – in the race for the White House with Colby College Political Science Professor Sandy Maisel and the Wall Street Journal's Dante Chinni.  We’ll also discuss how a contested convention might work, and what the possibilities are of the Congress determining who is elected president.

The number of midwives in Maine is growing, with at least 29 nurse-midwife practices in operation.  The U.S. Department of Labor predicts even more of a demand in the next decade.  Meantime, the Maine legislature is considering a bill to license midwives.  We’ll learn more about what midwives do (and it’s not just home births) and what roles they serve during pregnancy, birth and post-partum.  


Guests:  Ellie Daniels, Certified Professional Midwife

What's next for the solar power industry in Maine?

Guests:  Patrick Woodcock, Director of the Maine State Energy Office

Tux Turkel, Staff Writer with the Portland Press Herald

Fortunat Mueller, P.E., Partner at ReVision Energy LLC

Tim Schneider, Maine Public Advocate

Egypt Today

Apr 5, 2016

Since the Arab spring, Egyptians have seen two presidents forced out of office.  Today, the military is in charge and there are few  signs of a democratic future. The latest on current events in Egypt.


Guests:  Ali Ahmida, Professor of Political Science at the University of New England. He is the author of Forgotten Voices: Power and Agency in Colonial and Postcolonial Libya and the editor of Beyond Colonialism and Nationalism in the Maghrib: History, Culture, and Politics.


Apr 4, 2016

Gardening tips as we get ready for gardening season.

Guests:  William Cullina, Executive Director of the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens

Barbara Murphy, a gardening expert with over twenty years of experience teaching the master gardener course.

A conversation about why Maine is home to so many great craft breweries.  And the science behind making a great IPA.  

Guests:  Sean Sullivan, executive director, Maine Brewers’ Guild

Heather Sanborn, president, Maine Brewers’ Guild \ co-owner, Rising Tide Brewery

Lucille Benedict, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry, University of Southern Maine

What's in store for Maine air travelers in the future.  How the proposed privatization of the air traffic control system might affect Maine, why changes in the airplane industry affect flights available at Maine airports, how the Portland Jetport plans to expand over the next twenty years... and more.

Guests:  Paul Bradbury, Airport Director, Portland Jetport

Scott Wardwell, Airport Director, Northern Maine Regional Airport

Tony Caruso, Airport Director, Bangor International Airport

The latest advances in veterinary care and answers to your dog, cat and other critter questions.

Guests:  Dr. Ezra Steinberg, surgeon, Maine Veterinary Medical Center 

Dr. Katie Roberts, Associate Veterinarian, Biddeford Animal Hospital

Dr. Marc Ouellette, Casco Bay Veterinary Hospital

Maine’s Senior Senator joins us to discuss the latest news out of Washington.

Guest: Susan Collins was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996.

We discuss the latest news out of Brussels, the president's trip to Cuba, and their impact on the Race for the White House.

Guests:  Former U.S. Senator George Mitchell

Former U.S. Ambassador Laurence Pope

The host of the popular PBS Show Rick Steves' Travel joins us to talk about where considering visiting if traveling abroad this year.

Who’s up and who’s down after voters go to the polls in Ohio and Florida (and North Carolina, Illinois, Missouri).

Guests: Amy Walters, National Editor of The Cook Political Report where she provides analysis of the issues, trends and events that shape the political environment.  She is a graduate of Colby College.

Ron Schmidt, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Southern Maine.

We examine the refugee crisis in Syria as it enters its 6th year. 


Guests:  Professor Ali Ahmida, founding Chair (2000 – 2014) of the Department of Political Science at the University of New England.  

  Maple J. Razsa, Associate Professor, Global Studies Program, Colby College

  Holly Frew, CARE USA Emergency Communications Manager