This post was adapted from a comment I shared on the new editorial page editors listserve:
Like many of you, I started a local community columnist rotation while I was EPE in Anchorage. (We called it "Compass: points of view from our community." Clever, huh?) It's still running and while I assume it is still as big a pain as it was back then, to my occasional eye it still looks like a valuable addition.
One huge difference between now and the Olden Days when I was editing: blogs.
There is a lot of spirited, robust local opinion being written in your communities, whether you know it or not. Much of it would not meet your standards for publication, but even in its more extreme iterations, it's indicative of local passion and engagement you need to be aware of. If you're not plugged into the local blogosphere, somebody on your staff damned sure better be.
I have seen some prototypes of a very promising effort at Sac Bee to make the opinion page's web presence a clearinghouse for local opinion blogs. As the leading media company in your community, you need to be the one-stop shop people turn to for pointers to such items. With few exceptions, it will be to our advantage to be the place where people come to explore local commentary ... even when the commentary itself sometimes comes in packages we wouldn't otherwise endorse.
When David feels ready, I hope he'll open that experiment up for you all to see.
Yes, this will be tricky. But I think it's essential. If you don't fill this need, somebody else will, and your own voice will be increasingly marginalized.
– Howard Weaver