Growing up, I had the luxury of not having to contemplate democracy. It was a given, like the air I breathed. When I learned about facism in school, it was from the lucky vantage point of a person who wondered how that could happen, never if it could happen here.
Today, I am not confident my 5-year-old daughter will have that experience.
But there is one belief I had as a child that still holds true: There are few things more powerful than people equipped with the truth.
That is what we are all about at Courier Newsroom. For years, too many people have lost access to good information. Instead, they’ve gotten lies, misinformation, and emotion-fueled dramas served up to them in neat packages designed to distract, enrage, and discourage.
We are unique in many ways at Courier, but most of all is how we put purpose over profit to reach readers who are not the main focus of any other media organization, yet whose lives are arguably most shaped by those who hold political power.
Ahead of these democracy-defining midterm elections, we have over two dozen reporters, editors, and designers on the ground in eight state newsrooms. We are filling the gaps left by a decimated local news industry by bringing our audiences the news they need to make informed decisions at the polls—and paying special attention to the races that could decide whether we remain a government of the people.
We are doing that by making accountability a core part of our coverage, reporting on and reminding our readers of the extreme, radical statements and actions of public officials and candidates, which too often are the antithesis of a country that calls for the huddled masses.
We are also explaining how the government can and does help people, whether it’s getting health care, heating their homes, or putting food on their tables. And when elected officials put the needs of the people behind their desire for power and money, we also explain how that hurts individuals and families, uplifting the voices of those most affected.
And we are doing this all in a way that reaches our readers where they are, on social platforms with uniquely compelling graphics, video, and storytelling sized for a social feed and designed to engage our increasingly short attention spans.
After Donald Trump’s election in 2016, I thought I had to get out of political media. I felt like I was part of the problem, captivating media attention on polls that only meant something for a brief moment in time to an audience of political professionals. This was only amplified by the months that followed Trump’s inauguration, as it became increasingly clear that Russia and other bad actors had influenced public opinion with misinformation. So I left.
I dipped my toes back into political media only because I had the good fortune of getting involved with Courier Newsroom at the start, when founder and CEO Tara McGowan was testing the concept of using factual information to increase civic engagement in Virginia, my home state, in 2019.
But it was the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol that made me finally realize the election of President Joe Biden wasn’t a return to political normalcy, but a turning point in our democracy. That only became clearer as I watched the Republican party cower under Trump’s autocratic grip.
So when the chance to lead Courier’s eight state-based newsrooms opened up last fall, I went for it. I never thought I’d return to journalism full time, and especially never thought I’d have the chance to do it for a company that exists to reach an audience that is often ignored, yet absolutely crucial to our democracy.
Leading this work is an honor, and a fight I am thrilled to be part of. Because our families deserve the chance to live once again in a world where democracy in America is not a question, but a given.