HARPSWELL — A history teacher and former newspaperman has written a book about a journalist known for his exceptional reporting during the early 20th century.

The first book written by Kenneth Chutchian, a former journalist from Harpswell, is about journalist John Reed, known for his reporting on the Russian Revolution. Taylor Abbott / The Forecaster

Kenneth Chutchian of Harpswell, a history, government and economics teacher at Poland Regional High School, spent close to a decade researching and writing about John Reed, a journalist and social activist best known for his reporting on the Russian Revolution.

“(Reed wrote) about issues like immigration, labor unions, hostility toward immigrants, war, war for the sake of corporate profits and suffrage and feminism. I knew that Reed was charismatic, he was a gifted writer and he loved life,” Chutchian said Aug. 19. “His writing shows similarities to our political climate today, (which) fascinated me.”

Inspired by the Boston Globe sports page, which he described as “second to none” during the 1970s through the 1980s, Chutchian began writing at a young age. He has worked for several publications in Maine, as well as the Globe and other Massachusetts papers.

However, after 20 years in journalism, Chutchian decided to change careers and enrolled in an accelerated teaching program at the University of Southern Maine. At 41 he became a full-time student for a year, and began teaching at Poland Regional High School in 2000.

Chutchian said he became fascinated by Reed, the author of “Ten Days That Shook the World,” after seeing the 1981 film “Reds,” Warren Beatty’s historical drama about Reed.

“I say with great pride that this will be the first Reed biography in 44 years,” Chutchian said.

The major challenge he faced was criticism from faculty mentors.

“John Reed: Radical Journalist 1887-1920,” will be released this fall. Contributed / McFarland Books

“I knew I could write in journalism,” he said. “But this was an entirely different ballgame. This was scholarly research, which was just a deep dive into archives. Learning how to do scholarly research at that level was humbling and it made me feel like a rookie, which I loved.”

Chutchian spent most of his time at Harvard University, where Reed’s personal archives are housed. Because of the nature of the writing and the timeline of Reed’s life, Chutchian did not conduct interviews for the book.

“John Reed: Radical Journalist 1887-1920” is scheduled to be released in the fall by McFarland Books.

Chutchian said he has a few ideas for future books, including one about the Gamache Boxing Club in Lewiston.

Another topic he has considered is a historical book on the 1915 Armenian genocide, which both of his grandparents survived. While he is confident he can get information on the general history, Chutchian decided against pursuing it earlier in his career, since most of his grandparents’ history is anecdotal.

“I have ideas, but I can’t see myself starting a book project for at least a year,” he said. “This is a big deal for me. I have to be in love with the story before I work on it and it has to feel right.”


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