I was doing some research into PSNH’s new PUC docket, and I realized something I knew all along: no one is willing to go deep. Or maybe no one has the capacity to go deep. Or the resources. I did my CPD/PSNH story for NHPR last week, and several people commented it didn’t get deep enough. I totally agree. Unfortunately NHPR doesn’t have the resources to devote half an hour to such a story. (I’m not sure NHPR listeners have the patience to listen to a half-hour version of it either.)
But there is always more. As I wrote the script I knew there was more, and as the news editor cut it down and revised it to fit the time slot I knew I was going to get to say less.
But what’s the solution? PSNH already gives significantly to NHPR, and so do New Hampshire residents (read: rate payers). Interest groups are contributing what they can. Which one should we ask to give more to allow for more depth in reporting that affects them? And what implications would that have on the stories? (The host read a PSNH underwriting tag about 10 minutes before my story aired on Wednesday night. I had to laugh when I heard it—nice coincidence.)
Norm said something on here about the model for democracy being broken. I don’t agree; I agree with the Winston Churchill quote more: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”
The same can be said for journalism. It isn’t perfect. In fact, someone at the IGA on Monday told me they can’t believe how bad the paper is (they were talking about the daily). I wish I knew a better answer. I wish there was a way to allow people to take part in democracy, to get engaged in the debates, that didn’t neglect the depth.
I’ve been trying to figure out how I could change that in Berlin. The fact is being a reporter is more than a full-time job; news doesn’t happen on the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. But running after the day’s or the week’s news doesn’t allow for enough context, enough depth, to tell people what they really need to know. It takes those parts that get edited out to really understand what’s going on.
So how do you revive what lays on the cutting room floor? I’m not sure. As a staff of one, freelancing and reporting via cell phone and Internet, it’s tough to see where their is room for expansion. I see the need, but not the market. How do you make it profitable for a paper like the Reporter to reopen an office in Berlin, expand the staff and increase coverage. How do you pay for a three thousand word story about the ins and outs of energy? How do you make that argument to a publisher, who is running the paper as a business, not a philanthropic endeavor?
I don’t know, but I see the need. I recognize the criticism my story got as valid, but I have to take it as criticism of a broken system. I would have loved to add the details, but there simply wasn’t time. How do you make time? That’s the real question.