Thursday, April 17, 2014
Points of interest
My first job in journalism was at The Piscataquis Observer in Dover-Foxcroft. Not long after I arrived, The Observer celebrated its 165th anniversary.
I was amazed at the history of a paper that predated the Great Depression and the Civil War. When its first issue rolled off the press, Missouri marked the country's western border. Expansion toward the Pacific was only just beginning.
And the Kennebec Journal was already a teenager.
For 188 years, the KJ has played a crucial role in the daily lives of the residents of central Maine. The Morning Sentinel has done the same for more than a century. It is a proud tradition, and I am proud to be a part of it.
It goes without saying that newspapers have changed a lot since the KJ first hit the newsstand. For that matter, they've changed a lot in the last decade.
What has remained constant, however, at least in the more modern era, is the core responsibility of the newspaper -- to tell the community's story, word by word, photo by photo, day by day. Readers deserve clear, accurate and unbiased work from the reporting staff. They deserve photography and video that put them in the story. They deserve design that jumps from the page and screen.
And, from the Opinion page, they deserve a sharp and informative discussion of the local issues that matter.
The Opinion page is the section of the newspaper most dependent on the active involvement of the community. The paper will be weighing in on local issues through our daily editorials, and I will be writing a regular column about a range of topics. We'll be watching elected officials and the actions of local institutions to make sure residents are taken care of.
The success of the section, however, will depend on how well we make it reflect the voice of the community.
The KJ and Sentinel both already receive a lot of letters. It's fantastic that so many readers are engaged, and see our papers as an outlet for their own experiences and opinions. We also have a solid stable of regular contributors who each bring something to the papers in their own way.
But we have to do better. We need more local columnists who can offer their take on the issues, and about life in central Maine. We need to bring in local experts who can comment about the most pressing regional, state and national issues, so that readers are hearing from someone nearby, not in another time zone.
The same standards extend online. We'll be recruiting contributors from a variety of fields to inform and spur debate around the clock. We'll be looking at ways to offer instant analysis of breaking news.
We want to bring all our readers in on the discussion in a way that is constructive. The editorials, columns, letters and comments shouldn't just blow off steam. They should help make sense of the issues, and work toward a solution.
It is no small undertaking. But I think we're up to it. Let's get at it.
Ben Bragdon is the editorial page editor of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. He can be reached at 621-5655 or email@example.com.