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story.lead_photo.caption Gary Castor, managing editor of the Jefferson City News Tribune

"Every good conversation starts with listening."

That quote from Tom Haak, director of the HR Trends Institute, jumped out at me recently when I began writing this column.

The sentiment expressed by Haak, who researches and analyzes organizational and workforce trends, epitomizes the goal of our Reader Advisory Board: to share and understand the issues and opportunities facing our community, our state and our nation through thoughtful, respectful conversations.

Three members of our current Reader Advisory Board will be leaving in October, so we will be looking for three new candidates to join the monthly luncheon meetings.

Before I share what the duties of a Reader Advisory Board member are and how you might join the board, let's review why we have a Reader Advisory Board and how it works.

The goal of the Reader Advisory Bard — and the News Tribune in general — is to expand the voices and diversity in discussions about issues facing the community. Members of the Reader Advisory Board do that by discussing issues facing the community during monthly luncheon meetings where members are encouraged to bring topics for discussion.

We strive for diversity through who is asked to join the board; we believe that diversity — whether it's gender, age, ethnicity, political beliefs or other factors — can help us better understand the perspectives and aspirations of our entire community.

From those conversations, we have written editorials to raise awareness of particular issues. Some members of the Reader Advisory Board have written columns on the topics, and the ideas expressed during those meetings have also sparked ideas for news stories.

So how does the Reader Advisory Board function and fit into our operation?

To answer that question, let's talk about the newsroom overall. The News Tribune newsroom is comprised of 26 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 Reader Advisory Board as an 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, five community members are on our Reader Advisory Board: Mel Kallal, Jessica Green, Ashley Kaufman, Jenny Smith and Diane Spieker. When they joined the board, we told them they would serve a year and then transition off the board.

At this time, Mel, Jessica and Ashley are going to transition off the board. Personally, I have enjoyed the conversations and ideas they have each 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 three new members to join the board.

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 or an acquaintance's name to the list to be considered. Suggestions can be sent to me at [email protected] The deadline for consideration is Oct. 1; the first board meeting for the newly formed Reader Advisory Board will be Nov. 1.

Gary Castor is the managing editor of the Jefferson City News Tribune. His email address is [email protected]

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