In August, after initially being thwarted by inclement weather and a related power outage, The Gazette’s opinion team held a two-hour writers’ workshop, intended to help those who want to submit guest columns and letters to the paper.
I’ve since heard from some of the attendees as well as a handful of others who could not attend the rescheduled event. Most of these conversations end the same way: Readers and would-be writers would like an opportunity to sit down and discuss their ideas one-on-one. I’ve been accommodating these requests as they arise, but, at one such meeting, it was suggested that I develop a set schedule of times and places in the community where people could stop in and get help.
For instance, some readers would like for me to set aside two hours during the workweek, two evening hours and two weekend hours each month. During these hours, I would be at a certain place — perhaps a local coffee shop, or a library meeting room — and those who need or want some help putting their ideas in writing could drop by for one-on-one assistance. The suggestion came with a specific request: Don’t keep all the meetings in the Cedar Rapids area, but spread them around Linn, Johnson and other neighboring counties. I’m considering this, and would like to hear from more readers.
If I made myself available in this way to help you write a letter or a guest column, would you take advantage of the opportunity?
A follow-up suggestion includes my visiting established civic groups throughout the area (for instance, Rotary, neighborhood associations, youth and veteran groups) to speak about letter and guest column guidelines and offer assistance. I’d be willing to do this, as well, if it is something the organized groups believe would be of benefit.
Discussions also have included development of downloadable work sheets and examples to help would-be writers organize their thoughts and make clear, concise statements and arguments. Again, I’m open to doing this, too, but want to know how many people would find such resources useful.
Many in the community have opinions, ranging from day-to-day frustrations on road construction to ideas for state and federal policies. Gazette opinion staff — indeed, opinion staff members throughout the country — strive to provide editorial pages reflecting that diversity of thought. While I cannot speak for other newspapers, I can accurately report — after nearly a year of tracking guest columns — that our paper wants and needs to offer more columns by women and people of color. What we receive and publish currently is not in alignment with the demographics of the communities we serve, and that’s concerning. We need more and varied voices on our pages, because our communities can take action only on what is within their sphere of awareness.
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• @LyndaIowa, (319) 368-8513, firstname.lastname@example.org