Jennifer L. Grubbs
Jennifer L. Grubbs' "I on Life" column appears Tuesdays in the Craig Daily Press. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the things that was very foreign to me coming to the Daily Press was the way the paper's editorial board was run.
Here's how it works: A new editorial board starts quarterly. Once a week, the members get together at lunchtime to discuss issues and settle on two topics for the week's two editorials. Next, there is discussion, debate, arguing, many tangents and detours and finally consensus on what to write on the topics. It's not always unanimous, but majority rules, and it's always well-thought-out.
The publisher and editor are always on the board. There's also one other newspaper representative. And then there are three or four community representatives. These can be anyone from Craig who wants to get involved in the direction of the newspaper's voice.
After all, that's what an editorial board, is: the newspaper's voice. Nowhere else in the pages or online will you find a single, unified voice of the Daily Press. You might find opinion columns, letters to the editor, sports columns, business columns and editorial cartoons, but these are reflective of one voice - the author or artist.
So, what was so strange about the Daily Press' editorial boards? Well, for starters, there were editorial boards, plural; second, the editorial board and the editorials it produces are not only the voice of the newspaper, but the voice of the community.
One of my many, many collections involves newspapers (big surprise, right?). Whenever I go somewhere, I love picking up local newspapers to get a feel for the city or town. I don't always read them cover-to-cover, but I do try to checkout the editorial page or section, because that gives me a better idea of the paper's voice.
I've seen editorial pages that list the board members and their job titles, but it always seems like they are jobs within the newspaper.
At my last newspaper, our editorial board was made up of newspaper staff - the editor, news editor, agriculture editor, regional editor, circulation manager and publisher.
We would get together once a week and discuss what was going on and then come to a consensus and write an editorial - one or more for each day. It was rushed, hurried and a little messy. Some days, we were trying to figure out the editorial on the fly because what we had planned fell through or was no longer relevant.
What I'm finding here is that the editorial board system is well-entrenched in the community. When we put out the call for new editorial board members, we had replies. That was my greatest fear: No one would respond and participate.
Also, I had gotten so used to spending my Monday lunch hours with Nancy, Patrick, Hal, Collin, Cori and Bryce that it seemed strange that only Bryce and I would carry over to future Monday meetings.
Hal, or H. Neal Glanville as he calls himself in print, wrote his first weekly column about his experience serving on the board, and I think he did a great job of explaining the last board's dynamic. He talked about how we were a diverse lot with varied viewpoints who got together and talked things out. (For his full take, see www.craigdailypress.com and search for "free lunch," then scroll down to "H. Neal Glanville: Participating is worth the time.)
I also loved how he put Daily Press Publisher Bryce's philosophy behind having this system of editorial boards: "If you involve members of the community in the bi-weekly editorial opinion, not only will the newspaper become better, it will remind city and county residents that they have a voice and their opinions do matter."
Why would I want to leave these guys behind as the board turned over?
Well, it's seems that I won't have to worry about that. :
Patrick consistently writes letters to the editor, so I will have plenty of opportunities to talk to him each time I verify a letter written by him (though it's not hard to tell).
Nancy is very active in the community and a good source of ideas and tips and getting a hold of her isn't hard. Also, I know she'll let me know if something is happening - or if something was wrong in the paper.
Daily Press reporter Collin, I see every day in my capacity as his editor; same for Bryce, but as one of his mangers.
Cori just had a baby and is out on maternity leave, so it will be a while before I see her on a daily basis again, but that won't last forever.
And Hal, well, I decided I just couldn't do without his voice, so I made him a staff columnist on Mondays. Reaction has been good to his column, so I must have been onto something there.
And now I have a new board to work with. Again, we're a diverse group of people. We have a local doctor, a mother who works at a local business, a single man without children who works at a locally owned business, a reporter, the publisher and myself, the editor.
We'll have plenty of issues to tackle, this being political season and all, and I doubt that we agree on everything at each meeting. It'll be just like the old board, only different.
And that's what I call a voice of the community, not just the newspaper.
I've been so thrilled to find out how much of a role this newspaper plays in Craig and Moffat County. All of the letters I receive and the participation in the editorial board are signs of just how much what I do every day matters. I love community journalism, and in this form of editorial board system, that phrase has more meaning to me than ever.