LACONIA – In the past year, The Laconia Daily Sun has reported on several topics that often don’t get the attention they deserve: A series from the paper’s editor detailing his hospitalization for depression; a series about the shortage of quality affordable child care in the region and its impact on the workplace and families; and another series about a young woman who endured years of sexual abuse by her stepfather, who was convicted and sent to prison.
When the New Hampshire Endowment for Health contacted us about the possibility of funding a reporter position to focus on issues of civic discourse and social determinants of health, we were interested.
In a process that played out over months, we made a proposal, refined it after receiving feedback from Endowment officials, and applied for a grant, which was approved.
In addition to the Endowment, we also received guidance from people at the Nackey Loeb School of Journalism in Manchester and the Solutions Journalism Network, which is dedicated to not only highlighting problems, but exploring solutions. As part of our agreement, The Laconia Daily Sun retains editorial independence over the subjects it chooses to report on.
As a result of that, and with grant in hand, we brought Tilton resident Roberta Baker onto our staff. She is a veteran reporter who has worked at papers throughout New England, and was part of the New Hampshire Union Leader team that produced the award-winning “Silver Linings” series that focused on issues of aging throughout the state.
Her mission here for The Sunshine Project is to report on issues of community health – and not just health in a medical sense. We’ll examine medical issues, to be sure, but we want to examine broad indicators of community health, too, looking at data that may shed light on which communities and subgroups are doing well, and which are facing unique challenges, why, and what can be done.
One of those broad indicators is the quality of the discourse that takes place among us every day, whether in the letters pages of the Sun, on social media, or at public meetings. We expect the quality of the discourse in our midst to be a recurring topic.
With that in mind, The Sunshine Project kicks off today with a focus on anti-Semitism, another one of those topics too often relegated to the shadows, but one that generated a lot of discussion this past spring when The Laconia Daily Sun published a letter from a New Hampton resident who denied that the Holocaust ever took place.
Our goal is to promote healthy communities in our region and improve the quality of discourse among us, especially on topics about which reasonable people may differ and feel passionately.
If you have a suggestion for a story idea along these lines, feel free to contact Roberta by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And, as always, thank you for reading. We appreciate you more than you know.