Part II Editor’s Note: InDepthNH.org is celebrating our fourth anniversary of reporting unbiased, online, nonprofit news. We will tell you our story all week long and answer any questions you might have. We are part of a national movement to save journalism and hope you will join us in NH. — Nancy West, founder
By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
How did I get here? How did it happen that I believe so strongly that the workings of the government are a matter of public record that they should be willingly shared with all people?
You may have heard this phrase: Of the people, by the people, for the people.
I remember my fifth-grade teacher walking past my desk and praising a story I was writing about the planet Saturn. That was many years ago at the School Street School in North Attleboro, Mass.
The next year, our sixth-grade class toured the local newspaper, the Evening Chronicle. I remember the huge black press, the air of importance, the smell of power. Newspapers mattered.
In high school, our class wrote letters to the editor when it looked like our small town was going to ditch the annual town meeting form of government. I was appalled. My parents were appalled.
But the thrill of that first byline in my hometown newspaper when my letter was published has never left me.
The only part I remember about the letter was my haughty criticism of townspeople who would prefer to stay home and watch Peyton Place on TV than show up for an annual meeting to take care of the business of their beloved town.
Town meeting is long gone in North Attleboro. Ever since, I have watched as government distances itself more and more from the people it serves. At first it was a slow process, then that veil of secrecy seemed to cover more and more. Great journalism always exposed the growing divide. Watergate shocked us, but it highlighted the need for a free and vibrant press.
Then somehow, what was reported as news sometimes became polished or disguised. Journalists suddenly found themselves captives to a news cycle, which seems to shrink in duration as time goes by. Soon, everyone was chasing the next shiny object that attracted our attention, at least for as long as it kept the public riveted.
We got busy. Many of us stopped expecting much from government. Malaise turned to disgust. Something similar is happening in the world of news. Newspapers are no longer able to afford the reporters and editors and support staff to do the job they once did.
Readers no longer expect much from us either. Malaise turning once again to disgust.
The more newspapers fail in their watchdog role, the more government is emboldened to conduct its business behind closed doors. We are not on a healthy trajectory if we don’t do something about this and fast.
That’s why I started the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism to publish InDepthNH.org after 30 years reporting in New Hampshire.
We see the trends that are changing the landscape of a free press as an opportunity. We are building something new. At InDepthNH.org, we are doing that.
And we are doing it in a way that safeguards the values that we as journalists have always honored. That is to report the news free and unbiased.
That means we fully inform citizens in the belief that in-depth journalism is a pillar of democracy that will spur citizens to engage in civil discourse and ultimately to civic action. InDepthNH.org examines societal problems that are now under-reported but critical to citizens and the future of New Hampshire. These issues include child abuse, poverty, intolerance, criminal justice inequities, educational disparities, and economic and environmental concerns. We believe an informed citizenry can and will achieve great things.
We investigate community issues, interview a variety of sources, and report with a balanced and non-biased perspective. We do the deep dive into issues and spend time following stories. And then, we openly share our stories, free of charge in some instances, with other media outlets.
Across the country and in the wake of the digital disruption of news and declining trust in the media and tech platforms, there is an urgent need to redouble support for local and state news to ensure the nonprofit journalism sector can fulfill its democratic mission.
It’s an opportunity for a much more egalitarian news world, where what matters to you matters to journalism.
These have not been easy years at InDepthNH.org. We barely pay our talented reporters and we work like dogs to figure out how to make this work. Some of you have generously come onboard already. Thank you.
We need all of you, all of us, to build this new world of news together. I hope you will join us for year five.
Donations may be made here. See Part III tomorrow.
email me: email@example.com and tell us how you can help or just wish us happy anniversary.