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Peter W. Cox
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For many of us, Maine Times during its prime decades was the publication that connected us to the issues and the arts in our state, whether we lived at the end of a rural back road or in a city center. When it began in October 1968 Maine Times was one of the few alternative newspapers in the country and it quickly garnered media praise and national awards. We get an inside look at the newspaper, its personalities, its challenges, and the issues it tackled. This story is a fascinating one, but it goes well beyond the nuts and bolts of trying to make a success out of a ground-breaking newspaper, managing a talented and eclectic staff on a shoestring, and setting standards for the kind of investigative journalism and reporting that is still talked about today. Its also a very personal story, and in these pages we learn what shaped Peter Cox, the values he developed, and where it has led him. His childhood was one of middle-class privilege, his father was a prominent Washington, D.C., attorney, and Cox enjoyed an excellent education at Exeter and then Yale. But there was more at play than tennis. The fact that his father was Jewish was never acknowledged, and although the family had many prominent friends, those years were shadowed by the effects of segregation and the McCarthy hearings. Os car Cox taught his sons that who you are is not social or ethnic, but rather what you accomplish and how you conduct your life. And he encouraged learning by talking over current issues at the dinner table and challenging his sons with puzzles and education-as-games. We see how Peter Cox developed a restless intellectual curiosity, and just where this led him as we track his career and interests.
Peter Cox was sixty-seven when he finished writing this book, facing the end of his life as he battles incurable cancer. But this is a book about a vibrant life, lived well with zest and enjoyment. And just as Cox learned about journalism from people who were willing to share their knowledge and skills with him, he was an encouraging mentor to others, sharing his enthusiasm, setting high standards, and influencing and helping young people. He thought a newspaper should challenge a community to look at itself and improve peoples lives, and he used that same thinking in his public policy work, starting a mentors program at the University of Maine, serving on the boards of Eco/Eco, the Maine Civil Liberties Union, and the Portland Art Museum, and more recently working to turn Wolfes Neck Farm into a successful natural beef operation.
This is more than a Maine story. Its a book with broad scope, from the details of Peter Coxs search to learn more about his fatherwho was instrumental in writing the Lend-Lease Act of World War II, helped persuade Roosevelt to establish a War Refugee Board, and was involved with a war tribunal trial with present-day implicationsto years of rapid change, in our country, in our state, and in the field of journalism. Cox is used to asking questions, exploring the answers, and asking more questions, so we get a story that is rich in context and remarkably candid. As Sue Scheible points out in her introduction to the book, Peter Cox has received many awards during his life, but this memoir may be his finest and most lasting tribute.
Peter Cox led Maine Times from 1968 until 1986, with a brief return in the 1990s. Since his retirement he devoted his attention and energy to work with nonprofits, gardening, and his family and friends. He lived in Georgetown, Maine, with his wife Eunice.
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