Welcome to Civil Beat. We’re glad you decided to join us.

I’d like to tell you about the journalism you can expect to find here from our team of reporter-hosts. It’s different. And I’m excited to begin talking with you about it before we start publishing articles on May 4.

We start this news service with the belief that we’re here to serve you. That means our daily work is to ask the important questions citizens might have in the face of the complex issues facing our community. And to answer them in a way that helps members reach an informed opinion, based on our reporting and the discussion that will take place as we together create the new civic square.

You’ll find that our initial coverage is centered around five fundamental beats: Hawaii, Honolulu, Education, Land and Money. For each of these coverage areas, we have identified critical issues – and now that you’re here we hope you’ll help us sharpen our focus.

A good example of what I’m talking about is Education, where student achievement and accountability will be at the heart of reporter-host Katherine Poythress’ efforts. Or Hawaii, where reporter-host Chad Blair will explore the impacts of one-party dominance and homelessness. On the Honolulu beat, reporter-host Treena Shapiro will delve into the rail project and city planning, essentially the shaping of the future of our community. On Land, reporter-host Michael Levine, will examine land use decisions and their impact today and for future generations. As we weigh possible solutions to the most pressing challenges facing our community, we think understanding the economic impact of policies is crucial. That’s why two of our reporter-hosts – Noelle Chun and Katherine Nichols – will cover the Money beat. There’s a saying that guides investigative reporting: Follow the money. That’s what we’ll be trying to do on all our beats, but it’ll be their focus. They’ll answer who benefits, and who is hurt, and whether decisions are in the best interests of our community.

How will we do this to best serve you? First, you’ll be part of the process. You might have noticed that we’ve opened the doors to this new civic square without putting up any news articles. That’s different – a news service without news, at least initially. It’s intentional. We want to begin by talking with you about what we’re doing, to hear what you want from us and what you think we should be asking. We believe conversation and civil debate with our reporter-hosts and with other members is central to what will make Civil Beat valuable. And we want you to see that the core of our service isn’t the article itself. Of course, incisive news reporting soon will be an important part of what we offer. But at the heart of our service are pages dedicated to providing you context and understanding about the issues you need to know about. These “topic pages” are living pages. They’ll grow over time, with your help. We know you’re busy and that our job is to help make it easy for you to learn about and truly understand what’s going on, and what you might be able to do about it. With our approach, you should be able to find the background you need when you want it, without having to surf thousands of pages of documents or make numerous phone calls to unearth what should be readily available to you.

As we do our reporting work, we’ll share our experiences, using Twitter and a blog-like approach on each beat. We’ll bring you along, we’ll point out important developments, and ask for your help and your thoughts. When we’ve come to our own conclusion about an issue, our editorial board will let you know what we think. We think it’s important to take a stand and propose concrete steps, even if you won’t always agree with us. We hope that by sharing our point of view , it’ll help you sharpen your own thinking. Of course, we’ll be inviting you to do the same with us. We believe civil debate and discussion are essential parts of good journalism, and a positive way to create a better community. And that even goes for our reporter-hosts, who’ll be free to let you know when they disagree with the board, just the way you might.

Our journey together has just begun. We hope you come to see this news service as an essential guide to the ebb and flow of life on these beautiful islands. We promise that we’ll do our best to earn your trust and to live up to the promise of this place. Please never hesitate to let my colleague, Assistant Editor Sara Lin, or me know how we’re doing.

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