On Monday, July 16, more than 160 people packed a meeting room in Stockton University’s Campus Life Center looking to share their stories and build connections toward their common goal: ending domestic violence.
They were judges, attorneys, prosecutors, police officers, health professionals, social workers, advocates and educators. They’d come at the invitation of the N.J. Superior Courts of Atlantic and Cape May counties, and their shared hope was that the conversation they were starting that day would lead to real change.
And we were proud to be a part of it. In 2017, The Press of Atlantic City began publishing a series,”Breaking the Cycle,” which focused on the damage, causes and solutions to domestic violence in our communities. Our series served as the inspiration for the July conference, and our stories and videos were part of the information shared that day.
Every day in the United States, three women are murdered by a partner or former partner. In southern New Jersey, the murders of three women, all by former boyfriends and all within several months, spurred us to look deeper at the subject and find lessons that we could share.
There were lessons in our experience, some of which I’ve shared in previous columns, but a few others that are just now becoming apparent after meetings like this one.
And these are important lessons for both us and the communities we serve. They are:
• The realization that our newsroom’s ability to report on stories that matter to communities can lead to public conversations and positive change.
• That these “communities” are no longer defined only by geography. Topics, such as domestic abuse, sea level rise or youth sports, have their own communities and conversations.
• And finally, that identifying issues is still part of our job, but not the end of it. We need to look and help communities look for solutions through our reporting.
Listening to speakers discuss the topic convinced me that we can better use our skill of starting and facilitating conversations when we cover topics. Nothing inspires journalists more than the thought that we can make a difference. Being part of that first conversation, seeing and hearing the success stories, as well as the challenges that lie ahead was pure motivation that day.
Hosting conversations is something we look to do more of, and in more communities.
Already, we have found audiences interested in weather forecasting, entertainment, high school and youth sports, and the environment. On any given day, we’re looking to interact with people in these “communities,” either through podcasts, videos or live chats.
As we continue to operate in a climate that has grown hostile to journalism, we still see our ability to connect people to issues as not only critical to our success, but also to the health of our communities.
Regarding domestic violence, understanding the physical, emotional, psychological and financial impact of domestic violence is critical to stopping it. And conversations are critical to gaining that understanding.
For more about our series on domestic violence, go to www.pressofac.com/breaking-the-cycle.
W.F. “Buzz” Keough is managing editor.