Longtime journalist Jay Davis of Belfast has been elected the first president of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, joining a board that includes fellow journalists, academics, and community and business leaders.

“The Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting has begun its work at a time when Maine journalism — and Maine citizens — need exactly what the center offers: independent, in-depth reporting about our government,” said Davis. “This type of work requires resources the newspapers can’t afford these days, and it’s never been more needed by readers.”

The center was founded in Maine in late 2009 to research, write and distribute news stories that uncover and explain the actions of state, local and federal governments and also probe the records of candidates for public office. Stories are written by professional journalists with the assistance of students from Maine colleges and universities, and are distributed across the state by the center’s media partners as well as digitally by the center via its Web site and social networking tools.

“Based on the positive reaction to our stories from readers across the state, the center appears to have struck a chord — contrary to the prevailing wisdom, most readers are tired of ‘news’ that comes with a political slant or ‘happy news’ coverage that fails to ask the hard questions,” said center Publisher John Christie.

“Jay Davis has strong experience as both a reporter and editor — including at the Maine Times — doing just the kind of hard-hitting journalism we aspire to do. He’s also been a leader at a number of nonprofits in the state and his guidance as we build our organization will be invaluable.”

Davis’ fellow board members are Allyson Hughes Handley, president of the University of Maine at Augusta; David Offer, retired executive editor of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel; Fletcher Kittredge, founder and CEO of Great Works Internet; Bert Languet, principal of Golden Pond Wealth Management; Ann Luther, past president, League of Women Voters of Maine and co-chairman of Maine Citizens for Clean Elections; David Scobey, director of the Harward Center for Community Partnerships at Bates College; Daniel Amory, attorney at Drummond Woodsum; and Mary Mayo, vice president for development at GrowSmart Maine.

The center has also established an advisory committee, whose members represent a range of political and professional interests and who are called on from time to time to advise the center’s staff and board.

“We are honored that such distinguished people, both inside Maine and on a national and international level, have chosen to lend us a hand,” Christie said. “We may be a young organization, but every one of our advisory board members has told us they believe we play an essential role in keeping Maine citizens informed.”

Advisory board members:

• Joe Bergantino is director of and senior investigative reporter for the New England Center for Investigative Reporting at Boston University. Bergantino has been a national and local investigative reporter for almost 30 years. He spent most of his career as the I-Team reporter for WBZ-TV in Boston.

• Maddy Corson is the former chairman of Guy Gannett, the Portland-based media company that owned newspapers, including the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, and several TV stations. She has served on the advisory boards of educational institutions such as the University of New England and the University of Maine, and as a member of the Board of Visitors for the University of Maine Law School.

• Chris Harte is a veteran newspaperman who has been publisher of the Portland Press Herald, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal and an executive at Knight Ridder Newspapers. He lives in Maine and Austin, Texas.

• Adam Hochschild is the author of six books and of many articles in Mother Jones, Harper’s, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Atlantic and other magazines, writing most often on human rights issues. His books include “Half the Way Home,” “Finding the Trapdoor,” “King Leopold’s Ghost” and “Bury the Chains.” He and his sociologist wife, Arlie, write in the summer months in Turner, living on land her ancestors started farming in the 1790s.

• Robert A.G. Monks is a pioneering shareholder activist and one of the founders of the field of corporate governance. He is referred to by The Economist and Fortune magazines as the leading shareholder activist and governance advocate in the world. He was a general partner in the Boston law firm of Goodwin Procter & Hoar.

Subsequent to the full-time practice of law, he has had careers in business (CEO of C. H. Sprague & Son Company — coal and oil distribution), investments (principal of Gardner Associates and chairman of the board of the Boston Company and Boston Safe Deposit and Trust Company), and state government administration (energy commissioner for the state of Maine, chairman of two commissions to oversee the administration of the Maine State Retirement System appointed by Gov. John McKernan).

Monks also has served in federal government administration as founding trustee of the Federal Employees’ Retirement System and a director of the United States Synthetic Fuels Corporation both by appointment of President Reagan, and administrator (office is now assistant secretary) of the Office of Pension and Welfare Benefits Administration (Department of Labor) in charge of overseeing the private pension system in the United States.

• Barbara Walsh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who worked as a reporter for 28 years in Massachusetts, Florida, Maine, New Hampshire and Ireland. Now a columnist for Raising Maine magazine, Walsh, a Winthrop resident, is collaborating with Jamie Wyeth on a children’s book due out next year. She is also working on “August Gale,” a book about a 1935 Newfoundland fishing tragedy that claimed several of her seafaring ancestors, which is expected to be published in 2012.

• Warren Watson is executive director of the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, based at Arizona State University. Watson is a veteran newspaper editor, the former vice president of the American Press Institute and, most recently, the director of J-Ideas, at Ball State University. Watson is former executive editor of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel and former managing editor of the Portland Press Herald.

• Gordon Weil is an author, publisher, consultant and newspaper columnist who was Maine’s first public advocate, a position created to protect the public’s interest in utility regulation. He was also a correspondent for the Washington Post, Newsweek and Paris Herald-Tribune and a long-time columnist for the Financial Times. Weil is the author of “Blackout: How the Electric Industry Exploits America.” He is also a selectman in Harpswell.

The Center’s media partners are: Bangor Daily News, Sun Journal, The Ellsworth American, Mt. Desert Islander, Republican Journal, Herald Gazette, Capital Weekly, Bar Harbor Times, The Forecaster Newspapers, Downeast Coastal Press, American Journal, The Current, Lakes Region Weekly, Sun Chronicle.