Batten Award Runner-Up
The Eagle-Tribune, Lawrence, MA
"Unrealized Assets," an energizing
10-part series that lifted a city's struggle with crime, drugs and political
corruption beyond hopelessness and into the world of possibilities. It demonstrated
a real sense of affection for the community that bypassed boosterism and focused
on doable solutions.
Lawrence was a city everybody
loved to pick on. And quite frankly, the newspaper was part of the problem. We
logged every drug arrest. We highlighted every scar. We bannered every political
scandal. What we didn't do was show the kind of leadership cities like Lawrence
need in times like this.
It's a very delicate
balance. You don't want to cross certain lines. Our intention in "Unrealized
Assets" wasn't to be a cheerleader for the city, but it was to take a very serious
look at the untapped opportunities that exist there.
One example I'll share
with you is the Latino community. Lawrence is the most Hispanic city in Massachusetts;
it's 60 percent Hispanic.
That's a rich diversity. But to a lot of the families of those Irish and Italian
immigrants who developed the city in the early 20th century, Latinos were viewed
as a threat. They're the ones who cause the drugs and high crime. They were
an ungrateful culture that didn't want to learn English or were more interested
in taking from the community rather than giving anything back.
Through this series,
we've broken through some of those myths. And in a much broader sense, we've
begun to build bridges in a community that was very resistant to doing that.
I'm proud of the newspaper's role in that.
I think the recent census
report is a shot across the bow to the entire country. Our world is changing
and we need to respond to that and use that, not as a threat, but as an opportunity.
We followed up "Unrealized
Assets" with a lot of civic journalism types of things. We held a series of
town meetings in Lawrence on the issue of building bridges between Lawrence
and [neighboring] Andover, the most affluent community in all of Massachusetts.
We recently started
a Spanish-language edition of our paper that comes out once a week. Some of
the feedback we got from the established community was that, you know, our ancestors
didn't have that advantage. They all had to learn English.
In fact, that wasn't
true - during the early part of the century there were a half-dozen foreign
language papers that circulated in our area. So it was another myth we tried
to break down and prove wrong. I see that as a big part of our role here. In
a lot of ways, it's re-energized our newsroom and helped redefine what it is
we're here for. We're not simply reporting the news. We're not just writing
about scandal and throwing in a sports section and throwing in a feature section.
We really have a purpose.
We have a real mission
this year to try to build bridges in our community and make our community better.
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