Maine is a state of promise but also problems.
The economy is stagnant due to the longstanding trends of an aging population and manufacturing flight. This is exacerbated by a workforce with skills that don’t match those needed for current job openings and an education system struggling to keep up.
Drug abuse pervades communities and is viewed as the leading cause, and tragic effect, of a variety of social ills.
Too often, violence within families and relationships is hidden. Rape is Maine’s most under-reported crime. Too often, domestic violence erupts in tragedy, when warning signs are understood only in jarring, sobering hindsight.
These are only some of the issues facing Maine. But they are at the root of many other problems. This is why the Bangor Daily News has made the changing economy, drug abuse and domestic and sexual violence the subjects of a new journalism and community engagement project.
We call it MaineFocus.
During the coming months, or years, we will use MaineFocus to confront these challenges facing our state, drive public conversations about overcoming them and inspire solutions to create a better Maine. These are lofty goals. We don’t expect to achieve them alone.
This assembly of Mainers will be the sounding board by which our efforts are guided and evaluated. Group members are invited to suggest, critique and discuss with each other the issues and examples raised in the work from our three MaineFocus teams.
Editorial Page Editor Erin Rhoda, Newsroom Administrator Natalie Feulner and State House Bureau Chief Chris Cousins comprise our project team focusing on domestic and sexual violence, in partnership with the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault and the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence.
Metro Reporter Nok-Noi Ricker, State House correspondent Mario Moretto and Health Editor Jackie Farwell comprise our project team for drug abuse, in partnership with Project AWARE, an organization devoted to addressing issues facing teens, such as drug abuse, via film.
Opinion Page Editor Matthew Stone and Business Editor Whit Richardson are the project team for the changing economy. A variety of partners from around Maine are slated to contribute.
Our plan for MaineFocus is straightforward: Confront these challenges facing Maine in a substantive, consistent manner. The means are varied: produce top-notch journalism, drive community dialogue and debate, hold conferences and public events, plus more.
Most important is the goal: Inspire change, for a better Maine.