OPINION: We need your help to tell more important stories.

·3 min read

Sep. 26—During my nearly 45 years as a newspaper reporter and editor, I've learned the right way to do many things from a lot of smart people.

Among them: The importance of accuracy and fairness. The need to keep reporting until you really "have" the story. Refusing to act like I work for a small newspaper and not hesitating to tackle the big story.

The most important bit of wisdom came from an editor I worked for in Connecticut during my early days in this business.

The best way to tell any story, he said, is to talk to the people who are directly involved with it.

That may sound sort of obvious, and maybe it is. But there are stories published every day across the media landscape that are chock full of data and experts but lacking in human voices.

Sure, data and experts give reporting some context. But when we set out to report about issues that really matter here in the Susquehanna Valley, what's most important is connecting with people who have experience with those issues.

In my nearly six years at The Daily Item we've published a wide range of such stories. Every one of them have involved people like you.

This year, for example, we've received the help of many Valley people who have told us their emotional and sometimes tragic stories for our ongoing "When COVID Hits Home" series.

Our multi-part report, "Rx for Rural Health," which investigated problems and potential solutions for improved medial care benefitted greatly from people like you who shared your concerns.

When we looked for Valley residents who had been involved with the Peace Corps for that organization's 60th anniversary in March, a half dozen Valley volunteers shared their experiences.

Our reports on diversifying police forces, consolidating fire stations, concerns about mental health resources for area teens and many others were all better because of Valley people who stepped up to be at the center of them.

Each of these, plus many others, remain available at the Special Reports section on our website. I'm going on about this for two specific reasons.

First, I want to say thank you. Community journalism needs the support and participation of the community. Many of you have come through for us on both fronts.

Second, I want to ask for more of your assistance in telling two important upcoming stories.

The first, planned for early November, will explore the issues and seek answers for quality child care in the Valley. Reporter Marcia Moore will be leading this effort.

If you are a working parent in need of child care, an employer trying to hire people who require child care, a caregiver yourself or someone who oversees a child care center, we'd like to hear your experiences and perspectives.

Please email Marcia at mmoore@dailyitem.com if you can help us.

The other report will focus on area firefighters. Most departments here and across the state have always depended on the selfless volunteers who commit countless hours to protecting life and property with little in the way of compensation.

Our entire reporting staff will be looking at where things stand now and whether the volunteer system will be viable in the years and decades ahead. We'll explore possible ways to support volunteers, examine the costs of not having them, and tell the stories of those who do so much to keep us safe.

If you would be willing to help us with that report, please email managing editor Bill Bowman at bbowman@dailyitem.com or reporter Justin Strawser at jstrawser@dailyitem.com.

We really can't tell these stories fully without you.

Email comments to dlyons@dailyitem.com.

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