EDITOR’S NOTE: New journalism partnership brings help to Malheur County

Les Zaitz, editor and publisher, Malheur Enterprise.

Last week, I met people from across the country who could change the news you get from the Malheur Enterprise.

There was Pam Dempsey of the Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting in Illinois, whose outfit reports deeply on agribusiness.

There was Sara Lomax Reese of radio station WURD in Philadelphia, devoted to serving the African America community.

And there was Paola Jaramillo of Enlace Latino NC, a Spanish language news source for the Latino community in Raleigh, North Carolina.

They were among a dozen journalists from across the country that gathered for a virtual meeting and to join a shared project.

Those newsrooms and the Enterprise are among a dozen picked by the Solutions Journalism Network to learn how to use journalism that seeks solutions and not just problems, and how to develop responsible journalism as something the public will pay for.

As each of those journalists talked about what they’re trying to accomplish, I was scribbling down notes furiously. Idea after idea flowed – ways to deliver news that we could adapt or try here in Malheur County.

As I listened, I considered my good fortune. And then I thought of how that good fortune really is to the benefit of you, our readers, in Malheur County.

To survive as a news organization, we have to earn your trust. We have to earn your faith so you are willing to plunk down $5 a month to keep us going.

That a small newsroom in rural Oregon can connect up on a national scale is humbling. That I can bring to our community such skills and talents, even remotely, puts Vale on the leading edge of journalism organizations.

Over the next year, Solutions Journalism Network will offer us top-tier training and support, plus some financial support.

The idea is to make journalism a bit more hopeful for readers.

Yes, our job is to put a spotlight on something going wrong. Malheur County’s economic development department is one example. The woeful gap in school performance by Latino students is another.

But then what?

We want to be better at asking: What’s the solution?

We aren’t going to preach a solution. Rather, we’re going to find people, organizations and governments that are succeeding. What are they doing that could be helpful in Malheur County?

In other words, we want to work hard to make the community better, not just make headlines.

At the Enterprise, we’ve been so lucky to have these partnerships. We currently are planning our second year with the national Report For America. That program brought us Yadira Lopez to do better reporting on and connecting with our Latino community. She’s done great work already, and wait until you see what else we have coming.

We’ve had tremendous support from some of the best journalism programs in the country. You’ll remember that the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in Phoenix last year picked the Enterprise for a class project. This week, I return – via videoconference – to Phoenix to visit again with students.

We’re working hard to get ready for a team of student reporters coming from USC’s Annenberg School. They’ll be here in May, diving deeply into child poverty – a glaring problem in Malheur County.

And the University of Oregon is again getting ready to send us a top journalism student for a stint as a summer internship.

Over the weekend, I selected two other interns, both outstanding young journalists, students and humans. One comes to us from the University of Oklahoma and one from the University of Missouri. Both these interns were determined to win the Enterprise slots, so much so that we created a third internship to make room. More about them later.

All of this is to continue developing the Enterprise as a source of outstanding journalism – and a place where those in our profession can come and learn.

None of this would be possible without the hearty support of readers like you. We never forget – not for a moment – that what we do every day is for you.

Les Zaitz is editor and publisher of the Enterprise. Email: [email protected]

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