Column: AnnArbor.com returns to publishing a weekly editorial
Two of five wards in Ann Arbor face city council elections in August, and AnnArbor.com plans to endorse a candidate in each race.
While that may sound like “standard operating procedure” for many newsrooms, I wanted to let readers know that this is happening for two reasons: One, we published for many months without a local editorial voice; and two, it represents a change in how we generate our opinions.
Our return to publishing a weekly editorial began in May, as I asked three colleagues at AnnArbor.com to join me as our editorial board.
Joining me as AnnArbor.com makes editorial decisions: Bob Needham and Cindy Heflin, both news producers; and Kyle Mattson, our community engagement specialist.
I worked with both Bob and Cindy at the Ann Arbor News in the 1990s. We all were in editing roles there, and Bob supervised the opinion page at the News in 2008-09. The three of us live within the Ann Arbor Public Schools boundaries, and two of us - Bob and I - reside within the city limits.
Kyle gives us a slightly different perspective: He resides outside of the city, giving an objective perspective to many issues. His experience with our commenting system - and interactions with our commenters as they raise questions, add value to stories or require deletion - all give him unique insight here at AnnArbor.com.
We’re still fine-tuning how our process works. Right now, we’re meeting monthly to share ideas and determine which topics will be the focus of an editorial. It’s a collaborative effort, and the reason the editorials are published online under an “AnnArbor.com Staff” byline.
When AnnArbor.com launched in 2009, our editorials were influenced by an editorial board that included community leaders. They volunteered to meet monthly, discussed key issues in the community, and formed a collective opinion with our top managers. That ended in summer 2012 as I was promoted to editor and decided to restructure the format.
What we’re doing now is similar, but minus the outside voices. I believe this group understands the community well and has seen it function for many years, and is prepared to offer a concise, weekly institutional opinion that, at least in most cases, our readership will find credible and informed.
It’s my hope that we can eventually establish an opinion page that both represents this institutional voice of AnnArbor.com and conveys additional leadership from the same kinds of influential community members that previously joined our editorial board. I have some vision for how that will look
But in the meantime, we’ll continue to write weekly editorials. You’ll see our candidate endorsements by the end of July. And I’d like to hear your feedback on the process.