At the heart of Haverhill Matters is a promise: that its readers will experience its journalism as relevant to their lives, respectful of them as people, and worthy of their trust.
We live in an age when people have lost trust in institutions of all kinds, and the press is far from immune. Survey after survey finds that people think poorly of the press, see it as arrogant, and find less and less of relevance in it. It’s little wonder that newspaper readership and the audience for TV news have been falling for more than a decade.
So: If the rest of the press is widely seen as irrelevant, disrespectful and untrustworthy, how can Haverhill Matters actually deliver the relevance, respect and trustworthiness?
The fundamental magic is in cooperative ownership. To start with, co-ops are the most trustworthy form of business. That’s because the people the co-op serves and the people who own it are the same. All members get one vote. No one is in a position to get rich. So management is accountable to the co-op’s local member/owners, not to executives of a distant corporation who are accountable to even more distant investors.
Second, given that Haverhill Matters’s members will in effect sign the editor’s paycheck, the editor had better pay attention to their needs. Paying attention is the bedrock of respect.
Third, paying attention makes it easier for the editor to discern what the readers really need to know about – and this results in news that’s more relevant.
The Haverhill Matters co-op will be owned by more than a thousand people spread all through our community, and this is what will ensure relevance, respect and trustworthiness. Click here for a secure Web form where you can pledge to be a founding member, volunteer to help, or leave your email address to receive updates. For more detail, see the Frequently Asked Questions.
The core of Haverhill Matters will be day-to-day coverage of Haverhill institutions and happenings ranging from City Council meetings to school sports to business to the arts to police news, plus features that capture our community’s experiences and celebrate the lives of its people. Enterprise reporting projects will dig deep into community issues readers care about. And Haverhill Matters will take care to report not only about our city’s needs and challenges but also about what’s working. The tone of the stories will range from deeply serious to lighthearted and witty. The editor will routinely ask members for ideas, and will encourage their input; responses will help shape the general manager’s and editor’s thinking -- and inspire specific stories.
Haverhill Matters’s full-time editor will cover the City Council and write some other major news stories, but will spend most of her or his time directing the work of part-time reporters, interns from Northern Essex Community College, some high school students, and community correspondents who will chronicle neighborhood happenings. Every story will ask readers to let the editor know if there’s something wrong in it – and to offer new information that will make future coverage better; ensuring accuracy will thus be not only a professional imperative but also a community effort. Editorial policy will be to promote local civic health and economic vitality but not any one political party. The co-op’s executive director will supervise Haverhill Matters’s editor and, like the publisher of a newspaper, make final decisions on positions editorials take.
Haverhill Matters has designed its approach to news based on a coverage model created by the nonprofit Banyan Project. To see the model's possibilities in more detail, click here. To explore Haverhill Matters's news approach in a broader context, see the FAQs.
Engagement and Comment Policy
Haverhill Matters will offer readers digital tool its Internet publishing platform where they can come together around issues of interest and work for constructive community change. These spaces need to engender trust as well -- otherwise, it can be expected that many people will hold back and refrain from communting, which would undermine civic engagement. So Haverhill Matters has a comment policy that insists that people sign their real names, be issue-oriented and constructive, and avoide attacks on othen commenters.
Every comment will offer a tool that readers can use to flag it as out of bounds. If the editor agrees with the flag, he or she will email the person who posted the comment to review the comment policy and suspend privileges for a week. A second offense will result in a month’s suspension. And a third will result in cancellation of comment privileges.
Just as Haverhill Matters is devoted to making its journalism trustworthy, its promise to readers extends to advertising. It will not sell ads to exploitive or untrustworthy businesses.
The executive director will screen all ads but if one gets by, the publishing software will include an easy way for readers to flag it. The executive director will then investigate the advertiser and determine whether to turn away future ads.