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Joe McQuaid's Publisher's Notebook: 'News' is in the eye of the beholder

By JOE McQUAID
April 15. 2018 10:00PM




My father used to say (and he cleaned this up from the original) that everyone thinks they can do three things in life better than anyone else: Start a fire, drive a car, and run a newspaper.

Every reader of our newspaper — and nowadays our websites — has his or her own interests, tastes, likes and dislikes. I’m no different. I read some stories and want to know more. I read others and wonder why on earth the subject was worth any space at all.

Here is some of what caught my eye from recent editions.

Last Sunday, staffers Mark Hayward and David Lane told the story of some of Manchester’s homeless who pitch camps near the Merrimack River or on an abandoned railroad line. We often think of the homeless as either bedding down at a soup kitchen or in a car.

Hayward and Lane put a face to people who don’t want to go that route. But their abodes on public property are either eyesores or toxic soups or both, and the authorities periodically clear them out.

It was a tough story to do, in part because these aren’t the safest places to visit. And it was a tough story to read. It is easy to feel conflicted: sorry for the people living like this, reassured that eyesores are being dealt with, but wondering how long it will be before they are back.

Our story didn’t have the answers. But it did, I think, put a light where it usually doesn’t shine.

So did staffer Shawne Wickham’s two-package piece on human trafficking, which ran a week ago today. The term brings to mind the Third World and slavery, not New Hampshire. But the opioid drug epidemic that has caused so much distress here has also exacerbated prostitution. Women are traded as a commodity.

One brave young woman, an Atkinson native, has emerged from that hell and spoke candidly with Wickham about her ordeal.

Yes, it can happen here.

We published the homeless and trafficking stories on different days so as not to overload readers with gloom and doom. New Hampshire is a lot more than that and we look to tell the positive stories as well. One such was our sports piece on a college lacrosse player. Noelle Lambert scored her first goal this season, almost two years after losing her left leg in a moped accident.

Her story was inspiring. I didn’t need to ask whether it was worth the space.

Also inspiring is what Manchester native Jeff Brodsky is doing to encourage aspiring journalists in Manchester, with a $5,000 prize. Details are at https://thebrodskyprize.com. Deadline for entry has been extended to April 30.

Write to Joe McQuaid at Publisher@unionleader.com or on Twitter at @deucecrew.


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