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I always wanted to be a knight when I grew up. In the novels I spent hours reading, knights helped the people who needed it most, shined a light in the darkness and restored justice to the world.

As I got older, I realized there weren't many opportunities for knighthood in the modern world and found a different career to help my community: journalism. Whether I'm asking politicians how they plan to serve their constituents, researching business practices or interviewing a community elder, I aspire to hold a mirror up to my community, to reflect who we are and look at both the bright spots and the dark ones.

That is why I'm excited to announce that Southwest News Media has joined 150 newsrooms, including the Boston Globe, the Star Tribune and The Guardian, as a partner in ProPublica's Documenting Hate project. For the past two years, ProPublica has partnered with newsrooms across the country to share tips about hate crimes in their coverage area. With data sharing and professional training, ProPublica empowers newsrooms to pursue those stories and promotes the finished product on Documenting Hate's website and social media, broadening the impact of reporting that takes considerable time, resources and empathy.

A hate crime is a criminal offense motivated solely or in part by the offender’s bias against a person's actual or perceived race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity. No one knows for sure how many hate crimes and instances of bias occur in the U.S. every year; because of the sensitive nature of the crime, they're often under reported. The most recent data from the FBI reports 7,175 hate crimes in the U.S., against 8,828 victims. That's up from 5,850 hate crimes against 7,173 victims in 2015, part of a five-year upward trend across the country.

The ideals behind our partnership with Documenting Hate are the same ones that have driven our eight newsrooms for many years: to collaborate with our community, to persevere in the face of obstacles, and to report the truth with integrity and compassion.

This will not signal a dramatic change in our reporting — after all, readers still deserve to know about the local festivals, city politics and the achievements of their neighbors that make our cities some of the best in the country to call home. Rather, it is a re-commitment to report the painful news alongside the joyful; to listen to all voices in our communities; and to shine a light on the ways society leaves some of its members in the dark.

You can share a tip on Southwest News Media's website, I hope to hear from you, and to work together as we strive to make our communities welcoming, safe and kind to all people. After all, the world will not be perfect until we make it so.

Eden Teller is the multimedia reporter for Eden Prairie News. She's passionate about fostering productive conversations and empowering communities. When she's not reporting, she can be found reading a book, on a hike or tackling home improvement projects.


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