Thursday, May 24, 2018

How six small papers joined forces to cover the opioid crisis in Long Island with the East End News Project

Six newspapers, including dailies and weeklies and representing three different media companies, came together recently to cover the impact of the opioid epidemic on eastern Long Island in New York. Their coverage of a candlelight vigil in Hampton Bays last week launched the East End News Project, with about a dozen journalists spread out in the crowd, capturing the stories of people who have been hurt or lost loved ones.

Participating papers include "the Times Review Media Groups’ weekly Suffolk Times and Riverhead News-Review and the Shelter Island Reporter; the Press News Group’s weeklies, The East Hampton Press and the eastern and western editions of The Southampton Press; the weekly The Sag Harbor Express and journalism students at Stony Brook University," Kristen Hare reports for Poynter.

The scope of the story was too big for the papers to cover on their own, so the papers decided to band together, despite their normal attitude of friendly competition. "With the East End News Project, the goal is not just to tell bigger and more personal stories, but to confront the opioid epidemic as a community," Hare reports. "They want to offer resources, help humanize and destigmatize people dealing with addiction and examine the medical industry’s role and response to the crisis."

The Stony Brook University students have been able to pitch in thanks to a three-year, $150,000 grant, which Stony Brook Journalism School's founding dean Howard Schneider told Hare will put "more boots on the ground" and add "an influx of talent, enthusiasm and ambition and also multimedia capabilities that some of our other partners might not have."

The project will continue for the rest of the year, but they're considering future partnerships. "We are competitors, but we’re all in this together," said Joseph Shaw, executive editor of the Press News Group. "The future for us as an industry is about doing good work, and if we can pull together to do better work together than we do individually, I think that’s crucial."

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