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Gary Crooks: A call-out for more commentary from community

As you may have heard, Editorial Page Editor Bert Caldwell retired, and I have taken his place. What you may not have heard is that my former position is not being filled.

That leaves the newspaper with one full-time editorial writer, which means fewer editorials (those unsigned pieces that appear on the left side of the page) and more commentary from the community.

The traditional entry points for readers have been letters to the editor and guest columns, and those options remain. The plan is to introduce new gateways to the page and our online site. The Spokesman-Review’s website was recently redesigned, and the Opinion Page now has its own section, which allows us to run more commentary than can fit on the printed page.

One feature we’re starting – restarting, actually – is called Your Turn, in which local people connected to news events are encouraged to write personal columns, with the emphasis on personal. These are first-person pieces (about 450 to 475 words) designed to give readers a glimpse into how issues touch lives.

Guest columns are still the place for policy-oriented essays.

If you’re not a professional writer, don’t worry. I’m certain we can work together to produce insightful essays. We’ve run two Your Turns over the past two Saturdays – one from a woman dealing with the challenges of an eating disorder well past her teenage years; the other from a parent of a charter school student.

If you think you’d like to write personal essays spinning off a current issue, just send me an email or give me a call. I’ll be floating some ideas in this column each week.

Possible examples based on recent news:

A school teacher who left the job, which may connect to teacher pay, the effect of testing on teaching and other education issues.

A Spokane business owner facing the challenge of a new sick/safe leave policy or other government mandates.

A merchant with a crisis of conscience about selling goods or services to gay customers.

A transgendered person dealing with the bathroom rule controversy.

A police officer trying to do an honest day’s work in the face of constant controversies.

Another feature will be called The Proposition. Each week in this space, we’ll ask a political question, and the following week or so (depending on how readily readers respond) we’ll run selected answers.

Some inquiries will be aimed at specific parties (for instance, officeholders or former officeholders); some will be fair game for anyone.

The goal is to draw multiple views on a single issue, so brevity will be valued. We can also have fun with this. Most of the responses will appear online. Selected and/or abbreviated versions will appear in the newspaper.

You will need to use your full name, and it will appear. No anonymity.

Here’s a starter question: Which presidential candidate (still in the running) do you prefer? Give one reason, whether it’s an issue or a personal trait, for your support.

To answer, use my email address at the end of the column.

Speaking of columns, Smart Bombs will be sidelined. I simply won’t have the time. In its place will be this column, where I will review issues of the day and try to prod readers to chime in, whether through letters, guest columns, Your Turns or The Proposition.

It’s quite possible I’ll be contacting people directly to encourage participation in all of our features. Just know that we will be grateful for any contribution, regardless of the viewpoint, and, no, we can’t pay you.

Here’s hoping you won’t be shy as we head into a brave new world of opinion.

Opinion Editor Gary Crooks can be reached at garyc@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5026. Follow him on Twitter @GaryCrooks.


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