Report for America journalist Michaela Towfighi to join the Concord Monitor

Monitor Publisher
Published: 5/10/2022 4:31:34 PM

We’re excited to announce that our newest staff member will be arriving next month to report on a beat that’ll be new to the Concord Monitor.

Michaela Towfighi’s byline may be familiar to many readers. She was an intern from Duke University last summer, and now she’ll be back in Concord to take on our “Two New Hampshires” beat.

The idea to explore Two New Hampshires was borne out of the premise that our state is prized for its low cost of living, great education system, economic opportunity and high quality of life. That’s all true for many of our residents. Others, though, continue to struggle to keep up with rising costs, limited opportunities and sometimes a general feeling that they aren’t understood. Towfighi’s job will be to help illustrate some of the challenges of living in New Hampshire, whether you’re a first-time home buyer trying to get a starter house or a New American working to adapt to a very different life. Her beat will touch on many topics from the economic divide to social disparity, but ultimately it’s about people. Our hope is that her work will help us all understand and appreciate the challenges faced by many in our community.

This position comes to us through a partnership with Report for America, a national service program that’s become an industry leader in helping news organizations rebuild for the future. The concept of “service” is something both Report for America and the Monitor feel best defines the role of a journalist. That’s why we’ve worked so hard to build a network of supporters for our two previous Report for America positions.

For those unfamiliar with Report for America, it’s a national program that was recently featured on 60 Minutes. They receive applications from across the country, ranging from traditional newspapers, digital startups, television and radio. A small percentage of newsrooms are selected to receive a Report for America reporter. This year, more than 300 journalists will be placed in 200-plus newsrooms across all 50 states. The program pays half their salary in Year 1 and a third in Year 2. The host newsroom then raises the remainder of the money locally. The Monitor has received a one-year commitment from both Northeast Delta Dental and Merrimack County Savings Bank to help support this position. Any additional funding we receive for Two New Hampshires will go toward freelance data gathering.

The Monitor has designated Two New Hampshires as one of the four pillars of coverage that best meet community needs. The other pillars – health, education and the environment – will also rely on building community partnerships. All the money we raise through these partnerships goes to paying a journalist, who otherwise wouldn’t be reporting at the Monitor. It’s important for readers and funders to understand that our partners support our ability to report independently. In all cases, the Monitor maintains complete editorial control in all aspects of its reporting. Our funders agree to support us because they value the role of a free and independent press. They have no influence on what or how we report and have no advance knowledge of specific stories we are pursuing.

If you are a business or a potential funder who is interested in exploring a community partnership for any of these four pillars, please contact me at sleone@cmonitor.com.

Below, you’ll find an update on our fundraising for education, health and the environment.

Education

Through the first two years of our Report for America education position, funding has come from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and from readers who backed the effort in a 2021 donation drive.

Eileen O’Grady is back for a third year. A new local partner, St. Paul’s School in Concord, has joined the effort with a one-year commitment.

O’Grady has written more than 400 articles over the past two years, covering topics ranging from school mandates and remote classrooms to racial equity and teacher turnover.

Health

Teddy Rosenbluth has been an integral member of the Monitor’s staff since she arrived as our Report for America health reporter in the first few months of the pandemic. After two years with the Monitor, Teddy has taken a new position with the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. This is a terrific opportunity for Teddy, though she’ll be missed.

She also wrote more than 400 articles since June of 2020, and her series covering the connection between police shootings and mental health won first place for public health coverage from the national Association of Healthcare Journalists. For the past two years, funders have included Concord Hospital, Concord Imaging, Granite VNA, Riverbend and NAMI-NH.

Rosenbluth’s departure means this will no longer be a Report for America position. As a result, more of the fundraising duty falls on the Monitor to help fill this vital beat. We’re working on that now and hope to have some good news for you at some point this summer.

Environment

Last August, we entered a national program through the Local Media Association that included 20 newsrooms ranging from the Miami Herald and the Texas Tribune to the Monitor and the Keene Sentinel. During that time, we dove deep into how to get an ambitious fundraising project off the ground. We wrapped up the program at the end of the year by introducing a fundraising drive that would help kickstart our effort. We raised about $7,000 that month.

Our goal with this project is to establish the Environmental Reporting Lab, which could bring up to two additional full-time environmentally-focused reporters to our newsroom. That’d mean we could devote significant resources to writing about issues ranging from the business of renewable energy, electric vehicles, pollution, policy, wildlife, conservation and a whole lot more.

We need community partners to help make this a reality. The response from readers has been tremendous. For those who were gracious enough to donate, please know that we will use that money this calendar year, even if we do so with a freelanced special project rather than a full-time position. In the meantime, we’ll be doubling down on our effort to fund the Environmental Reporting Lab, because that continues to be a vital part of our mission.




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