Joe McQuaid's Publisher's Notebook: Helping readers find their way in a changing media landscape

Overheard in a waiting room the other day (at a business that wisely keeps multiple copies of the Union Leader available.)

Woman to her companion: You know I was here the other day and I picked up a paper. I thought it was the Union Leader, but it was the (paper’s name withheld because I’m being nice). There was nothing to it!

The companion nodded, and the woman began telling him things she was reading in that day’s Union Leader.

These are challenging times for most news companies. Business models have been upended by the internet. Our digital readership and revenues are growing but print readership and advertising remain vital.

New Hampshire news and information is our bread and butter, both in print and online. Sufficient revenue matters to sustain that coverage. The Union Leader has been fortunate to come up with some creative ways to provide it.

We now have two reporters whose work is funded through grants and private donations administered by the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications Inc.

Our Silver Linings beat focuses on solutions to issues that face New Hampshire’s aging population. The grant that provides for this work is a renewal of one that began last year. It is funded by the New Hampshire Endowment for Health. Its new reporter this year is Roberta Baker.

She has been a staff reporter for New England daily newspapers, freelanced for others; and in a nice bit of symmetry, has written several children’s books.

The second funded position is new. It focuses on two related topics: mental health and drug addiction. Veteran New Hampshire Sunday News reporter Shawne Wickham has taken up this challenge.

The funding comes from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Health), and private individuals.

We call the beat Beyond the Stigma and it is already producing timely work, including a look at suicide signals and prevention in the wake of high-profile suicides in the news this month.

Wickham is also bringing her experience to bear to take a fresh, in-depth look at addiction issues here and how New Hampshire, and other states, continue to respond to them.

I won’t say we wouldn’t be reporting on these issues without the grant funding. In fact, we have been. But I will say that the funding allows us to focus more resources on them than would otherwise be the case.

That’s a good thing. And it’s one reason why that woman in the waiting room will continue to find substantial New Hampshire information in our pages.

Write to Joe McQuaid at or on Twitter at @deucecrew.