From Feb 5 through Feb 11, the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism will return to New Hampshire for the week leading up to the First-in-the-Nation presidential primary. Working out of a pop-up newsroom at the Shaskeen Pub in the heart of Manchester, our team will produce dispatches and features in various formats that will be made available to news outlets across the country. (You can read more about our presence at the primary in this press release.)
As we prepare to question candidates and report back on happenings around the Granite State, it is important that members of the public tell us what they want to see covered. We are using an approach called the Citizens Agenda, which is rooted in the belief: To perform a public service, you must try to reach your entire public. This means thinking beyond your traditional channels to identify new, unique opportunities to reach people. (You can read more about the Citizens Agenda here and here.)
We have had feedback on multiple channels from our first week of asking: What do you want the candidates to be talking about as they compete for votes? Of the notes we have received from readers and people who contributed thoughts on social media or email, not a single person asked for more coverage of personal spats between candidates, or the kind of sensational reports that increasingly dominate headlines. Rather, they called attention to various concerns that rarely reach cable news.
Below you will find our developing reportorial agenda—the BINJ Citizens Agenda—curated using input from the public as well as media makers who are coming to report on the ground in New Hampshire. We may not be able to address every single worthwhile point, but we will make our best attempt to explore the broad spectrum of critical, relevant matters that typically go unaddressed, and to recognize that many of the topics intersect.
- Income inequality. Do the candidates have a plan to alleviate poverty? Do they have innovative ideas about homelessness? Do any of the candidates have the moral courage to fight for poor people? What specific policies do they propose to address the issues that poor people face, such as unaffordable housing, structural racism, inaccessible health care, childhood malnutrition, and caring for economic refugees?
- Government transparency and FOIA. Which candidates have a track record of supporting or opposing measures that would make for a more open government?
- Leadership style. How do candidates treat people who work for them? Why do we only hear about it when candidates who are women are reportedly hard to work with?
- Disability rights. Exclusion of disabled people from political activity. And broadly, disability as an intersectional aspect of literally every issue: we are at higher risk in climate-change fueled emergencies, we tend to have low income, we encounter intersectional violence and harm in our community work education care and in the justice system.
- Voter rights. How will the candidates end the scourge of gerrymandering once and for all? How will they hold accountable those who try to boost their political power by conspiring to choke the vote in marginalized areas?
- Climate change. Overwhelmingly, readers want to hear what candidates have to say about the environment. Spurred by public input, our reporters may focus on sub-topics including: sustainable manufacturing, sustainable farming, food production, water pollution, and overconsumption.
- Student loan debt. Are we going to have to pay these loans back or not?
- The opioid crisis. How do the candidates feel about so-called “recovery drugs” like Suboxone that are opioid-based but are increasingly being pushed by the government and prisons on people with addiction disorders? Do the candidates know about the lawsuits that multiple attorneys general have pending against the makers of some of those drugs for the same kind of duplicitous marketing that was done with OxyContin?
- Infrastructure and transportation. Do you have a plan to rebuild things like bridges in major cities before more of them come tumbling down? How about high-speed rail? Is that something we might get under your presidency?
- Labor. Are any of these candidates going to talk about the importance of trade unions?
- Money and politics. Who is taking how much from whom and what? What plans—if any—do candidates have to limit the influence of lobbyists and major donors?
- The death penalty and life without parole. Where do the candidates stand on extreme punishment? How do they feel about the movement to end life without parole? How do their records on these issues stand against their campaign issue statements?
- Surveillance. Do any of the candidates have anything to say about the growing surveillance state? From social media monitoring by law enforcement to cameras in the public square, these issues are largely invisible.
- Gun control. What are the candidates saying about guns in front of a presumably pro-gun crowd in New Hampshire? What are they willing to say? How do their comments line up against their history on the issue?
- Caregiving and caregivers. How do you plan on helping people who care for their loved ones? Especially young people who are caregivers and have no formal recognition or support for that responsibility?
- Police brutality. With Castro out of the running, do any of the remaining candidates have anything to say about the epidemic of police violence in this country?
- SCOTUS. How will the candidates fight for reproductive rights under the current Supreme Court? In addition to addressing questions along those lines, we also hope to consider federal judicial appointments at various levels, as well as any number of pending SCOTUS cases.
- Cannabis. We have been asked to look past the current marijuana policy proposals by candidates, and to impugn their past positions on the topic.
- Immigration. Can the candidates explain in person the details of their proposals for how to manage immigration in this country in a fashion that embraces refugees and others, keeps all parties safe, and avoids threatening students and others who have been given mixed messages about their status in the United States?
- Religion. What are the candidates saying on the campaign trail when they are in houses of worship and the cameras aren’t on them? Who is comfortable talking about religion in front of a New Hampshire crowd?