When The Morning Sun Editor Rick Mills launched a community editorial board, he said he knew there was a “growing knowledge that a strong Opinion Page was just as important to the community as news coverage.” Mills said he was uncomfortable with the idea of every local editorial coming from him, an editor or even the staff.

Mills wrote a column outlining his perspective, the importance of opinions and conflicting viewpoints and asking for community

Screenshot: The Morning Sun "Community Commentary" blog page

members to contribute on a regular basis. He formed an application process and community members submitted an informal introduction, answered some questions and addressed three local issues they felt deserved attention. Fifteen applicants responded. At a meeting of the community board, a Central Michigan University faculty member spoke on the importance of local opinion. The board has ranged from nine to 15 members and there is a monthly rotation schedule, with regular contributors posting weekly and sharing a community blog on the website.

“They have been extremely valuable in terms of ideas for editorials, positions and guidance, but also contribute equally to story-generation. For a small staff, we more than doubled our eyes and ears by having community members looking out, talking to friends and coworkers and bringing back to us what they hear and see and think,” Mills said.

“My main advice would be to try it in some form, get media lab folks involved, teach them, and show them how important a newspaper’s voice and a strong editorial page are,” Mills said. “In many communities there are many sources for news, we need to lead on more than just news and readers like and respond to strong local opinion pages.”

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