Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Small daily newspaper tackles a tough topic, youth suicide, by first working with the community

Durango Cares website was developed as part of the project.
The Durango Herald, a small daily newspaper in Colorado, took on the difficult topic of youth suicide by forging some innovative community partnerships.

In applying for a grant to subsidize the reporting, the paper had to check with the community. "That check-in helped reshape the direction of the project," Kristen Hare reports for The Poynter Institute. "Several local organizations that work with youth suicide prevention came to the newsroom. Some were hesitant be there at all because of the Herald’s past coverage, which many worried created a contagion effect."

The paper asked the groups what they needed that they didn't have, and discovered some things. Claudia Laws, audience development manager for Ballantine Communications, which owns the Herald, told Hare that the youth-suicide-prevention community needed a central place to connect, and to maintain and update information. Laws realized that the newspaper's expertise in providing updated information put them in a unique spot to help.

"The project, 'Creating Connections,' is a solutions-based youth suicide prevention project in print, online and audio that ran in partnership with local radio stations. The Herald also created a standalone resource website, which it operates and maintains, and took a thoughtful approach to commenting," Hare reports.

Staff writer Mary Shinn spoke to a grief counselor to help her cover suicides in a way that wouldn't retraumatize readers who had known someone who died by suicide. Using a $5,000 grant from the Solutions Journalism Network, she partnered with freelance broadcaster Sarah Flower to bring new stories to new audiences, Hare reports. That partnership opened doors for the Herald. "While some organizations and groups, including the Southern Ute Tribe, didn’t have a good relationship with the Herald, they did have a relationship with Flower," Hare reports.

The newsroom also created a resource site that Laws updates monthly. "Durango Cares is a resource, she said, but more importantly, it’s a way to show readers and stakeholders in the community that the newsroom cares about the community it covers," Hare reports. "It didn’t drive pageviews, Laws said; it’s not news, but it’s done much more to build trust that she ever imagined."

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