Hi, I'm the new guy.
I have been Gannett Central Wisconsin Media's regional opinion editor for, oh, two weeks now. I've been overseeing the opinion page in Wausau since 2010, and it has been a fun, difficult, rewarding job. Now I'm adding opinion pages at News Herald Media to my job duties.
So I thought I would write to introduce myself - and ask for your help. I've got a lot to learn about the community, and a lot of people yet to get acquainted with.
A good opinion page talks and listens. I want this space to host provocative, strongly worded pieces that will drive some of you crazy - and drive different people crazy on different days - as well as carefully reasoned, carefully crafted pieces that make you think about an issue in a new way. And to succeed, this section will need your input, your letters, comments, suggestions and gripes.
Here's some of what is going to be important on this page, and readers' role - your role - in shaping it:
? Our View. News Herald Media has not had a regularly convening Editorial Board in some time. That's going to change. A good editorial board brings together informed, opinionated people with different experiences and even different political leanings and works to find common ground. Out of those editorial board discussions come the opinion pieces labeled "Our View," which represent the consensus of the group. We'll be expanding the board's role and seeking reader participation.
We'll also continue to publish some "Other View" pieces from our state and national partners. Those pieces give readers a look at how other papers' opinion sections are approaching important issues.
? Your letters. As far as I'm concerned, letters to the editor are one of America's great literary forms. My first published piece of writing was a letter to the editor in the Pantagraph of Bloomington, Ill., responding to attacks on local skateboarders. (I was 16; seemed like a pressing matter.)
A great letter to the editor can illuminate a viewpoint in just a few sentences - sometimes more effectively than the long pieces they're responding to. Letters are a good format for responses to stories or guest columns that the paper has run, or for perspectives on ongoing local or national news.
? Guest columns. We're happy to take contributions of op-ed pieces that allow the writer a bit more space than a letter to the editor does. But here's the trick: A guest column should bring the writer's specific experience or expertise to bear on a community issue. A good op-ed can be a polemic or a personal essay, but all the best ones have an "I" to them. There ought to be something more to them, in other words, than just a letter that couldn't hit the word limit.
? Facebook and Twitter. In 2013, a lot of the written conversation people are having about issues of the day is happening digitally. It's happening on Facebook, on Twitter, on blogs and in comments sections of newspaper stories. The opinion page here should reflect those conversations. So one of the things we'll do is pull together comments left on our stories, our Facebook pages or sent to us on Twitter, and we'll publish excerpts of some of the views. If you want to be part of that conversation, the first thing to do is to "like" our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/MarshfieldNews, and check in on the stories and questions we post during the week.
You can also find me on both sites. I'll be honest, my Facebook page is mostly pictures of my 2-year-old son. But I'm pretty active on Twitter and I have a lot of fun interacting and share links there. Please join me, if you enjoy that sort of thing! I'm @robertmentzer.
And, please, tip me off to interesting people I should be following on Twitter, local blogs I should be reading and anyone else who has strong, informed viewpoints on community issues. (If you're that person, I want to know you.) Tell me what you like and don't like about News Herald Media's opinion content, what changes you'd like to see and what we should never, ever change. With any luck, we'll be able to keep up a conversation that is lively, sometimes infuriating and occasionally even enlightening here and across our digital platforms.