Wick Communications

Convene the editorial board

In Opinion pages on March 19, 2010 at 8:21 am

I’m not sure how many of you have editorial boards that include “ordinary” readers, but it strikes me as a wonderful idea.

I got to thinking about it the other day as I was reading Larry Hurrle’s column in the Ontario Argus Observer. He was welcoming a new member to the editorial board and waxing about the importance of the endeavor. At the Argus Observer, editor Hurrle, news editor Jessica Keller, publisher John Dillon and two members of the public meet on Wednesday afternoons to hash out story ideas and come to consensus on the paper’s editorial positions. The newspaper ends each editorial by saying, “Our view is based on the consensus opinions” of the Argus editorial braintrust and two named community members.

In his column, Hurrle says the effort is invigorating:

“In the short time that I have been back at the Argus Observer, I have enjoyed seeing three different members of the public on our editorial board. I have been impressed by their input and their willingness to give their views of what is going on in our area.”

In Half Moon Bay, we don’t have an editorial board, but I wish we did. We have, in the past, had formal groups we called “community advisory boards” and we would meet periodically to discuss pressing issues and just talk. It was a great way for committed readers to better understand what we do – and vice versa…

I think an editorial board is just one of many ways to assure that you stay current with your community, that you don’t become an insular organization. You might accomplish the same thing with regular coffee klatches or membership in the service clubs like the Rotary or even by coaching your kid’s Little League team.

If you want to form an editorial board I have a couple suggestions. First seek out ordinary people who are nonetheless active in the community. You don’t want a city councilman. Neither do you want a guy who never leaves his basement. You want a mom who is active in PTA or the high school basketball coach, or a chamber committee chair. You want someone who knows what’s going on and cares about the direction of the community.

Finally, make the meetings regular and sacrosanct. Don’t schedule an editorial board meeting and then cancel it at the last minute. Treat your guests with utmost respect and I’m positive it will be a worthwhile experience.

Clay

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