Nearly four years ago, the News Tribune began hosting monthly Reader Advisory Board meetings, where members of the community and News Tribune staffers come together for frank, honest and respectful discussions about the issues and challenges facing our community.
The conversations have been heartfelt; they've been spirited. They've expressed frustrations; they've induced empathy.
The underlying thread through these conversations has been the belief that if we listen to the feelings and perspectives of our neighbors -- even if they don't look like us, speak like us or think like us -- we grow stronger as a community.
It's that time of year when we are looking for new voices to join the conversation.
The Reader Advisory Board is comprised of members of our Editorial Board, who are staff members of Central Missouri Newspapers and whose names appear daily on the Opinion page, as well as six members of the community.
So how does the Reader Advisory Board function and fit into our operation?
To answer that question, let's talk about the News Tribune newsroom overall. The newsroom is comprised of 25 journalists -- reporters, photographers and page designers. The core mission is reporting news without offering opinion.
But three of those journalists -- Opinion Page Editor Gerry Tritz, graphic artist Jim Dyke and myself -- contribute elements to this Opinion page, where opinions are expressed.
The opinions expressed in Dyke's editorial cartoons are his, but the News Tribune Editorial Board reserves the right to edit and have final say in whether a cartoon is published.
The Editorial Board has five members: General Manager David Meadows, Circulation Director Michael Johns, Controller Mayra Long, Tritz and myself. The board's role is to craft editorial positions based on the News Tribune's historical stances on issues, as well as considering evolving viewpoints. The daily editorials that run under the header Our Opinion are usually crafted by Tritz and then are reviewed by the editorial board before publication.
While we believe the Editorial Board is still a solid approach for dissecting the issues of the community, we see the opportunity to expand the number of voices at the table so that we might discuss more issues and from different perspectives.
The Reader Advisory Board meets the first Wednesday of the month, usually over lunch. We talk about the news and issues of the day, as well as more long-standing, structural challenges we face as a community.
Currently, six community members are on our Reader Advisory Board: Jenny Smith, Diane Spieker, Carlos Graham, Anne Green, Tom Ault and Melissa Manda. When they joined the board, we told them they would serve a year and then transition off the board. Two of the current members have been on the board for a year; the others have been on the board six months.
At this time, Jenny and Diane are transitioning off the board since they have served a year. Personally, I have enjoyed the conversations and ideas they have brought to the table. We may not have always agreed with one another, but we have always respected each other's views and learned from their perspectives.
With their departure, we will be looking for two new members to join the board.
Our goal remains the same: to create a board that is diverse in its views, experiences and passions.
I have been asking members of the board, as well as community members, for suggestions to fill the open positions. This column also stands as an invitation to add your name to the list to be considered.
If you want to be considered for the board, drop me an email at [email protected] In the email, share a bit about your background, experiences and reasons for wanting to serve on this board. The deadline for consideration is March 27; the first board meeting for the new members will be April 6.
Gary Castor is the managing editor of the Jefferson City News Tribune. His email address is [email protected]