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 journalism and community engagement project we call MaineFocus.
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.
We invite any Mainers interested in helping us to join us via what we’re calling the MaineFocus Group. Group members are invited to suggest, critique and discuss with each other the issues and examples raised in our work.
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.
In 2014, MaineFocus is looking at four critical issues facing our state.
MaineFocus Economy: Training ME: Hard questions about the University of Maine are being asked amid another budget crisis. The community college system is successful, but even so, the state still lacks the workforce it needs. What must change about higher education in Maine to be sustainable and develop the workers of tomorrow?
MaineFocus Drugs: Heroin & Opiates: Policing vs. Treatment: The opiate crisis in Maine is at an inflection point. The governor is promising a crackdown on users and traffickers. Yet those who need treatment face reduced medical benefits and tighter controls on opiate therapy drugs to prevent diversion. Both options are needed. Which will have better results for Maine?
MaineFocus: Sexual Violence: This year, we will examine child victims, whose lives are forever altered and the crime against them is often unrecognized, misunderstood or ignored. We’ll also examine programs that treat sex offenders, many of whom were victimized themselves as children. What can Maine do help kids and break this cycle?
MaineFocus: Domestic Violence: We will turn our attention to rehabilitation of domestic violence offenders in Maine. From the Maine State Prison to small anti-violence nonprofits, offenders are given the chance to change. The question: Will they?
MaineFocus Politics: Election 2014: Those we elect to public office have the most opportunity to effect change in our communities around these issues. What will our gubernatorial and legislative candidates in 2014 do about these issues? If they have no agenda, will they support ours?
BDN Maine launched the MaineFocus project in the summer of 2013. Since then, we have:
Brought together a forum to discuss Maine’s Economy in October at the University of Southern Maine. Here’s the report from the event.
Hosted a student film festival open to all high school students to answer the question, “How has drug abuse affected your life, or the life of someone you know?” Submissions were open in the fall of 2013, and the festival took place during the high school basketball tournament finals at the Cross Center in Bangor.
- Editorial Page Editor Erin Rhoda earned the prestigious Media Excellence Award from End Violence Against Women International.
- Editorial Page Erin Rhoda earned the annual Visionary Voice Award from the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.
- The Bangor Daily News earns the annual Making a Difference Award from the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault.