Why we need to save the news in New Hampshire

IN 2018, a local newsroom reported on allegations of misconduct against the Salem police department. This investigative reporting triggered a momentous chain of events. The town manager was empowered to investigate the department and how it handled internal investigations, resulting in a damning audit of the department’s internal record-keeping procedures, among a litany of other concerning issues. Before long, Salem’s police chief was forced to resign amid a storm of controversy regarding the department’s operations.

It’s easy to imagine this story playing out differently, with a few frustrated citizens finding their complaints falling on deaf ears and resigning themselves to inaction. Only the dedicated efforts of Ryan Lessard and his colleagues at the New Hampshire Union Leader brought the details to the attention of local readers. Without local reporting, this story might never have come to light.

The local news industry, however, is in trouble. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, advertising revenue has dried up with businesses shuttering to combat the virus. This has led to layoffs, furloughs, and pay cuts for thousands of journalists. As essential workers, journalists are a critical resource for providing the people of New Hampshire with local reporting on what’s happening in their communities. This includes life-saving public health information about the impact of COVID-19 in their areas, particularly as the pandemic’s course takes new directions every day. Many news organizations are even making their online COVID-19 coverage free for all readers as a public service, despite the financial strains they face.

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