Monday, August 25, 2008

Let's talk before we write

Here's a novel approach to formulating editorial opinions: let's listen to what readers think while we're doing the thinking and writing, and not just afterward.

That seems to me the essence of what Star Tribune Editorial Page Editor Scott Gillespie announced this week for Opinion Exchange, a new process through which the Strib's ed board will interact with readers.

I'm planning to follow their experiment closely, and encourage any of you involved with opinion or reader connections to do likewise – or, better yet, start an experiment of your own.

You can read his post and find the site here.

In a nutshell, we’re turning our online section into a blog. Instead of a relatively static presentation of what we publish in the daily paper, Opinion Exchange will become a frequently updated, interactive online destination. Blogging is far from cutting-edge, but we believe our approach is unique among newspaper websites.

We’ll start each weekday with a post that will summarize the discussion that takes place at our daily Editorial Board meeting and invite readers to comment on the issues we plan to write about. Those online discussions will inform — and sometimes influence — our opinions. Because opinion page readers tend to be some of the best informed online users, we’re betting the discussions will be both thoughtful and provocative. If they veer out of bounds, we’ll moderate.

Our editorials will continue to represent the institutional voice of the newspaper and will be researched and written by the Editorial Department staff. But Opinion Exchange online will give us the benefit of hearing from you while we’re doing that work — not after the fact.


  1. We actually did the same thing in Greensboro, starting Your Voice at the Table in July 2007. It worked well for a while, but eventually tapered off so the editorial folks changed its directions and posted editorials there.

    I hope Minneapolis' experience will be better. Probably will be, given the size of the readership.

  2. What's more, audiences are changing fast. I'd say people are much more likely to participate now than even a year ago -- and, thanks to socia media etc., much more capable.

  3. I think that's a fantastic idea. Many readers of the paper where I (used to?) work as an on-call copy editor make huge assumptions in their blogs and story comments about how and why editorial viewpoints come to be. As I'm not one of those editors or entitled to speak in any official capacity, I don't feel I have a right to answer the readers or defend the process, however much I might want to. Silence has a way of emboldening the disgruntled and reinforcing the air of intrigue and secrecy. I applaud such an effort toward transparency.

  4. Anonymous5:42 AM

    As a retired editorial writer for a major chain-owner paper, I am appalled. Editorial opinion, as we have trumpeted for years, is the informed opinion of the publisher and the editorial board. It is not influenced by those who shout the loudest. If, for instance, great Southern newspapers had given a whit about what readers thought they would never have sounded the call for integration.

    An editorial writer's job is to lead the discussion and suggest action by the community it serves, not parrot what any clown with a keyboard might think.

    Like what I write, fine.

    Dislike it, fine. We will print/post your disagreement.

    But the public is wrong as often as it is right. The day we let the the public influence our opinions is the day we should just turn the lights out in the editorial department.

    What's next, letting the subjects of investigative pieces have a pre-publication peek?