Paynesville Press - January 2, 2002

Community Perspective

New Press column to begin

By Michael Jacobson, news editor

This isn't a "community perspective." Readers get enough of my writing through the regular editorial coverage of the Press. But perspectives from the community are coming, starting next week.

In future weeks, this column, a new feature called Community Perspective, should provide just what the title proclaims: varying viewpoints from community-minded residents.

The idea for this column comes from the Monticello Times, an award-winning weekly that has run such a column for 15 years. Times editor and publisher Don Q. Smith believes their column is frequently the best piece in their newspaper.

We hope to duplicate this success. This column will use rotating writers. My intention is to get the best sampling of writers that I can from this community. The goal is to get perspectives from all segments of our community: local government, school, health care, agriculture, retail business, manufacturing, youth, elderly, religious, civic organizations, arts, etc.

The goal is to get a variety of perspectives, so, for instance, contributors at the school will range from administration to teaching staff to students and parents.

Ideally, this column would have 52 writers per year, a different writer each week. So far I have arranged writers for January and February, and I will be contacting more local residents in the near future to see if they will make contributions.

The greater the participation of writers, the more this will really present a "community perspective."

Readers can expect opinions about a variety of subjects in this column. They can expect to be challenged on local issues, to laugh at humorous experiences, and to be reminded why people choose to live in this rural community.

No subjects have been assigned to the writers, and no subjects will be taboo. Writers may concentrate on a topic in their field of expertise, or they may write about something else.

This column is aimed at being pro-actively pro-community. The only two requirements for it are: to avoid being self-serving and to avoid finger-pointing.

This doesn't mean that writers won't have some self-interest in their topics or that these columns won't be critical. The differences, as I will judge them, is that self-serving includes financial gain where self-interest does not and finger-pointing blames others while being critical points at a problem and offers a constructive solution.

As I contacted the residents who will write the first eight weeks of this column, I was asked if I was soliciting Letters to the Editor. Sort of, I guess. This column will differ from Letters to the Editor in tone. Often, people feel compelled to write a Letter to the Editor to get something off their chest. They get so angry or upset that they feel they have to write.

This column will hopefully spur people to write about the topics that they think are good ideas but may never get around to writing about. It should include the topics that normally would get dropped, that people know are important but might not sit down and write.

I hope you enjoy it. I hope you learn from it. And I hope you will consider participating in it.

One of the main differences between a weekly newspaper like this and a metro daily or another mass medium like television is that most every resident can expect to see themselves in our pages eventually. This is another opportunity to be in our pages, and I hope the community will embrace it.

This column will not succeed without community support.

I will make a schedule of column contributors. Anyone interested in writing a column should contact me at the Press.

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