Small-Town Newspapers Join Forces to Tackle Big Story: The Opioid Crisis

The East End News Project, a collaborative effort between a number of daily and weekly news outlets on Long Island, aims to bring together their resources to cover a challenging story as best they can.

With a story as big as the opioid crisis, the challenge in fighting it is that it requires a lot of coordination.

And it’s with that spirit in mind that a number of news outlets on Long Island, New York, some of which are direct competitors with one another, have banded together to make sure all the angles on an important story are covered.

Last year, eight news outlets from along eastern part of Long Island announced they would form the East End News Project, with the goal of collaborating on one of the most challenging news stories facing news outlets today. Among the outlets taking part are three publications owned by The Press News Group (The Southampton Press, The East Hampton Press, and, three newspapers owned by the Times Review Media Group (the Shelter Island Reporter, The Suffolk Times, and the Riverhead News Review), The Sag Harbor Express, and the Independent.

While the collaboration isn’t entirely new, it bore its first fruit last week, as the news outlets closely collaborated on telling the story of an opioid vigil from multiple angles, with heavy use of photography and multimedia.

“This is a crisis that is affecting our entire community and our region,” Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman says in the article. “Standing together, we can make a difference.”

The approach, according to an article in Poynter, allowed these small-town newspapers  to punch above their individual weights thanks by pooling their individual newsrooms together, along with resources from nearby Stony Brook University. It’s a different strategy than is expected in traditional journalism, where competition is often fierce in an age when the revenue picture has grown tighter.

Howard Schneider, the dean of Stony Brook’s journalism school, noted that the rules might be different at the local level, however.

“I think we’re in an environment, though, where there’s a recognition that to do journalism that’s ambitious and special, we may have to be more collaborative and work together with our competitors,” Schneider told Poynter’s Kristen Hare.

The collaborative spirit speaks to a recent trend in journalism to better support small-town reporting. For example, a relatively new nonprofit called Report for America is taking a cue from Teach for America to put journalists in difficult-to-cover beats, particularly those in rural areas.

But in the case of the East End News Project, it all comes back to the story—and its importance to the local community.

“We are competitors, but we’re all in this together,” Press News Group Executive Editor Joseph Shaw told Poynter.

(almir1968/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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