People have many ways to share their opinions these days, but thoughtful comments are rare.
Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter provide platforms for anyone to broadcast their opinions around the world. But opinions that include solutions and seek common ground on the big issues facing our communities are rare.
Instead, personal attacks and controversial posts on national topics tend to be the most viewed, commented on and shared. Local issues that directly affect our lives sometimes get lost in the mess.
As Opinion and Engagement Editor of the Gainesville Sun, my goal is to publish constructive commentary on the biggest issues affecting Gainesville, Alachua County and the State of Florida. Yet, too often, we broadcast opinion pieces that are more incendiary than enlightening, especially on national issues.
A different approach is needed to help bring people together to make progress on long-standing challenges. The Sun’s opinion pages should contribute to a dialogue aimed at resolving local issues, helping to build consensus rather than fueling divisions.
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To that end, we are making changes to our opinion pages. Going forward, we will no longer run daily editorial cartoons.
Editorial cartoons often deal with controversial national issues and, by their nature, leave little room for nuance. We will now release them on a limited basis, generally only airing them on Sundays and selecting cartoons on local and national topics whenever possible.
We are also redoubling our efforts to research and publish opinion columns on local and state issues. Although we will continue to publish columns on national issues of USA today and other Gannett publications, we ceased running other nationally syndicated columnists.
Our staff’s editorials have long focused on local and state issues. But these articles are sometimes misinterpreted by readers as representing the opinion of our entire newspaper rather than just that of The editorial staff of the Sun.
As a result, we are now more transparent with these editorials by including language explaining that they represent the opinion of the board of directors and indicating the name of the author. We are also more selective in publishing these editorials, instead I focus on writing columns like this.
Additionally, we formed a community advisory board to populate our opinion pages. The group will help us present the most informed opinions from the widest possible range of viewpoints on the major issues facing our community.
The focus of our next meeting is housing, which has been a divisive issue locally. We hope to identify commonalities that could be the subject of future opinion pieces. I also seek out columns from residents whose expertise and personal experiences offer particular insight into issues such as the lack of affordable housing.
All this requires a greater effort on my part, as well as your help. Email [email protected] with opinion submissions, or just to let me know an idea before I write something. I’m also looking for new ways to reach readers online and through public events, and welcome all suggestions and possible partnerships.
In order for me to devote more time to this effort, The Sun is reducing the days that opinion pages appear in our print edition to Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Eliminating weekday editorial cartoons will allow more letters to appear on those days. We will continue to post our six-page Questions section on Sundays, while posting articles from this section online throughout the week at www.gainesville.com/opinion.
At a time when so many differing opinions can be found online, The Sun needs to stand out from all the noise. Help us make The Sun the place where local residents can constructively discuss key issues affecting our community.
Journalism matters. Your support matters.
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