Column-writing for me is a bit like conducting a sloppy science experiment. The process usually begins with what seems to be a sound idea that then spends several days or weeks being subjected to tests, rearrangements, dependent and independent variables, outside review, and external data. It is all very, very formal.
Or not. But the best columns and editorials result from the widest range of input, and the more factors, viewpoints and research – conversations, really – and in the interest of expanding those conversations, we here in The Durango Herald’s opinion shop are adding a new feature or two.
Beginning in April, we will hold two informal public editorial board meetings each month – one over morning coffee; one in the afternoon. Locations and exact times will vary. That way, we offer an equal-opportunity chance to nurture a broad discussion of local, state and national issues – around which the sessions will be loosely framed. We will announce the topics in advance of the biweekly meetings, but will welcome conversation outside those issues as well.
With these meetings, we aim to gather readers’ input about the issues that shape our lives here in Durango. My hunch and hope is that these will range from policy concerns to pragmatics, with politics infusing both. Mostly, our role will be to listen. We will not use the sessions to formulate our editorial positions – at least not directly – but rather to draw from an even broader field of input when we are establishing our stance on local, statewide and national concerns.
There is some precedent for these types of open sessions, both at the Herald and at newspapers across the country. The spectrum of openness in newsrooms ranges from Fort Knoxish to doors ajar. The Register Citizen, in Connecticut, has what it calls an open newsroom, wherein it invites the public to its editorial board meetings as well as to its daily story meetings. That level of public participation is an interesting experiment in community journalism as an interactive practice; most papers do not delve so fully into such endeavors.
In past years, the Herald has held public editorial board meetings on a somewhat erratic schedule, with equally erratic participation. The sessions eventually fizzled into dormancy, but the ongoing conversation with the public is something we are committed to reviving in a number of formats, beginning with the public sessions.
We hope you can join us for these sessions, the first of which will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday at Eno, 723 E. Second Avenue in Durango. Stay tuned for topics.
In addition to these live sessions, I will begin a blog version of this column, called “Policy & Politics Digest,” containing daily posts focusing on, you guessed it, politics and policy ranging from the local to the national. These posts will offer readers an opportunity to comment, and I look forward to an online conversation about the issues of the day.
These forums for hearing from readers about the issues are, we hope, an opportunity to broaden our relationships in the community, the stories we tell, and the concerns we consider.
Megan Graham is a Herald editorial writer and policy analyst. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.