Paynesville Press - January 1, 2003

Community Perspective

Help! Column writers needed!

By Michael Jacobson

Once again, it's my turn to write a Community Perspective. Last year at this time I wrote to introduce this new column, which features members of the community writing about virtually any relevant topic that strikes their fancy.

As of this issue, the Community Perspective column is a year old, and in my mind it proved to be a great success in 2002. According to my count, we had 39 columns this year, meaning this column appeared in 75 percent of the Press issues in 2002. (That percentage would have been higher had I had better success in arranging writers in November and December.)

But these numbers, while indicating success, tell less than half the story, I believe. Last year, when I raided the Monticello Times for the idea for this column, their editor and publisher, Don Q. Smith, told me that their column was frequently the best thing in their paper.

That has been the case for us, too.

I think it has been refreshing to read the thoughts of different writers with different writing styles on a wide variety of topics. Topics have ranged from smalltown living and learning about parenthood to history lessons and profiles of various local organizations. Writing styles have ranged from autobiographical to persuasive. Moods have ranged from poignant to humorous.

The most popular single topic this year was the terrorist attack of 9/11, which was referenced in seven columns in the past year. In February, Pastor Keith Ainsley wrote about the need for the community to have plans in place when tragedies strike; in April, Kayla Hemingson and Mindy Meagher shared their reflections on 9/11, as written for their girl stater essays; in May, Vietnam veteran Bob Bowden reflected on Memorial Day's renewed significance post 9/11; in July, Robb Hoiseth, who teaches overseas, described the Polish reaction to 9/11; in August, Roy Colbert wrote how faith, family, and friends have been more important since 9/11; in September, Steve Stang, the emergency medical services coordinator for PAHCS wrote about 9-1-1 responders; and, also in September, firefighter Roger Torborg wrote about the local fire department, in the light of post 9/11.

Tackling relevant topics from a variety of viewpoints shows the real strength of this column. The only two limits on potential columns are to avoid being self-serving and to avoid finger-pointing (angry feelings can be published in the Press as a letter to the editor).

I have reason to believe that this column has been a popular addition to the Press. I know I have heard lots of positive comments about the column and few negative ones.

The purpose of my taking a turn at writing this column again is twofold. First, I want to thank all the people who have written columns in the past 12 months or who have allowed their writing to be reprinted for enjoyment of our readers. Thanks, the column owes its success to all of you.

Second, I want to urge anyone who has a topic in mind or an ability to write to volunteer to try writing a column in 2003. The idea is to get as wide a range of opinions as possible, and I need help to find people with interesting viewpoints and topics. I hope this column can feature 40 different writers in 2003.

With the holiday rush now past, I will be calling again in search of more writers and I hope people will be receptive. Also welcome are people who volunteer to write, either by calling me and getting on my weekly schedule or by submitting a finished column.

It has been said that community newspapers are only as good as its readers, which still is true. We need people in this community to read our pages, to be willing story subjects, to write letters to the editor, to bring any mistakes to our attention, and now to write this column.

Michael Jacobson, a PHS graduate, is the editor of the Paynesville Press.

Would you like to participate as a Community Perspective writer? Call Michael Jacobson at 320-243-3772 to get scheduled as a writer or e-mail him at

Contact the author at | Return to Viewpoint