Following the story, investing in journalism that matters

At 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria’s 155 mile per hour winds ripped apart homes and decimated Puerto Rico’s aging infrastructure, forever changing the trajectory of the Island and the 3.3 million Americans citizens that lived there. Local reporters joined forces to tell this story while managing their own personal losses, overcoming the challenges of a total black out, and putting themselves in harm’s way to report from the most devastated and remote parts of the Island.

Today, approximately 200,000 Puerto Ricans have left the Island to make their home elsewhere, half the Island’s remaining population lives in poverty, and far too many of the 300,000 homes that were damaged or destroyed languish in disrepair as a new hurricane season looms. As our community grapples with the realities of the storm and the challenges that the island faces to truly recover, we need journalists all over the world to continue to follow our story.

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Puerto Rico continues to face an unprecedented crisis; with $72 billion in debt, a declining population, and an estimated $95 billion in storm damage, there is no silver bullet that will solve the island’s myriad problems. It will take years of tough choices, hard work, and continued sacrifice by the Puerto Ricans who have already lived through a decade-long recession.

In Washington, President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Gov. Ron DeSantis more popular in Florida than Trump Sotomayor accuses Supreme Court of bias in favor of Trump administration MORE continues to disrespect Puerto Ricans and fails to deliver the help we need. Just a week before the commemoration of Hurricane Maria’s first anniversary, he has heartlessly politicized the death of 3,000 American citizens to shameless deflect attention from the realities of his failures. While Puerto Rico has access to $16 billion in federal funding, the process is so convoluted and laborious only 30 percent of the money has made it to the island. And, our own governor has lost credibility in the halls of Congress and with important stakeholders as he struggles to manage the fiscal crisis.

This is unacceptable, but we have the power to change it.

By shining a light on what is happening in communities across Puerto Rico, we can hold government accountable. With educated and engaged citizens, we can incubate investment and stave off profiteers. With the stories of human impact and tragedy, Puerto Ricans -all of us American citizens- will be less far off and foreign to other Americans.

Following the story of Maria’s effect on Puerto Rico is also the exact type of reporting that can restore public confidence in the media. A recent Knight Foundation poll found that 69 percent of Americans distrust the media, largely pointing to partisan bias as the driver of this sentiment. Respondents pointed to increased transparency from the media and more fact checking resources as essential in restoring confidence.

As journalists and media companies, we should take this to heart. We need to encourage reporting that matters, that reveals the human condition, and that connects our readers to the world around them. And that’s why, as the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico is commemorated, I’m calling on journalists to continue following our story and those just like it—hard, complicated, long-term and consequential.

There is no more transparent way to report than meeting people in communities where they are and sharing their stories as so many have done in the rural and mountain regions of Puerto Rico in the past year. Our readers need to see the faces of their fellow citizens who are harmed by policies, who are innovating and challenging the status quo, and who are overcoming incredible odds to succeed. Without this Puerto Rico will not recover, and neither will our industry nor the country.

Luis Alberto Ferré Rangel is the Chief Social Innovation Officer of Grupo Ferré Rangel and Chief Editorial Advisor of GFR Media. He was the Editor in Chief of El Nuevo Día when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico.