An Exercise In Community Dialogue

FROM THE EDITOR

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If you've ever seen me, or any editor, in the hours before an editorial is due, you've witnessed pacing, pencil chewing and basic wild-eyed panic.

At the Payson Roundup, we call the editorial "Our View." It is never signed, unless one individual in the newsroom feels passionate enough about a topic to call it "My View."

We call it "Our View" because each editorial must be approved by at least three senior managers at the Roundup before it can publish.

The "official process" usually involves me pacing publisher Richard Haddad's office hours before the paper goes to press with the day's story list.

We brainstorm topics until we hit one that gets the conversation going. Then we argue until we compromise on an opinion that truly reflects "Our View" and not just the thoughts of an editor who wandered into town four months ago.

In my short tenure, we've written some pieces I'm proud of like the time we pled for ADOT to do something with the dangerous Bush/Beeline highway intersection or the editorial in support of Main Street that pointed to a need for a community focal point beyond the Wal-Mart parking lot.

But not every editorial is hard hitting, life changing or award winning.

In my four months at the Roundup, I have heard a few criticisms of our editorials and one comment in particular has never left my mind. The person said, "Your reasons were shallow."

It's one thing to disagree with my opinion, but it's a whole other thing to feel I didn't argue well, that I skirted the real issue or that I pulled my punch.

I take that kind of criticism to heart, but that represents a true failure of an editorial.

I want our readers to turn to page 4 of the Roundup for thought provoking, well argued opinion.

Readers should feel enlightened or enraged, but I do not want them to feel disappointed.

Shallow editorials where issues are danced around often represent an insecurity on my part as a newcomer to this community. I do not know the back stories. I have not always seen the many facets that lie between the two sides that are presented to me.

And so I am inviting the community to join me in an experiment. Larger newspapers across the country use editorial boards to help focus their editorials, and I would like to try something similar at the Roundup.

Our editorial board will consist of three community members and two members of the Roundup staff -- myself and publisher Richard Haddad. The board will meet once a week to discuss and reach a consensus on the topics and opinions.

The editorials will still be written by me using feedback from the editorial board.

I hope that through this process, the opinions in our editorials will come to truly reflect "Our View" -- the Roundup and the community.

We are looking for people who are engaged in the community, but not elected officials. Editorial board members will serve a four-month term.

Anyone interested in applying for this volunteer position should send a letter explaining why he or she would be a good choice. Include name, age, occupation and contact information.

Send a letter of application to Editor Autumn Phillips, Payson Roundup, P.O. Box 2520, Payson, AZ 85547, drop it by the Roundup office at 708 N. Beeline Highway or e-mail editor@payson.com.

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