Elements of an effective editorial

Lighthouse stairsIn October I concluded my time as a member of the Palladium-Item's community editorial advisory board, which I joined about two years ago.  I enjoyed the experience and while (as expected) I didn't always agree with the views published by the paper, I felt like I was able to bring a perspective and approach that helped shape the overall conversation.  There have been few other places in my day-to-day life since college where people regularly gather in a room to vehemently but respectfully talk (okay, and sometimes shout) in depth and in person about current events and important issues facing the city.

I was already a fairly close reader of the viewpoints page in the Pal-Item and other publications, but being on the editorial board inspired and required even closer attention to what topics local writers were submitting letters and columns about, and how they went about presenting their views.  As a result, I've put together a list of elements that I found to be present in the most effective and engaging editorials I've read:

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2012 Chamber Debate Bingo Cards

Tonight at 6 PM, the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a series of debates for candidates in various local, county and state races.   The debate is free and open to the public, and will take place at Vivian Auditorium on the IU East campus.  You can also watch the debates live on WCTV.

I hope local voters will watch the debates to learn more about the would-be elected officials who might significantly influence how tax dollars are spent, government is run, and children are educated.

But if you need another reason to watch, you can now download and print out my Chamber Debate Bingo Cards [PDF].

Each time a candidate says a phrase on the card, you mark off that square.  Get five in a row, and you've got a BINGO! (If you are attending the debates in person, please do not yell out "BINGO" during a debate session.)

Each of the 5 cards has a random ordering of phrases, so you can play against your friends and family.

Local elections have never been so fun!  Enjoy.

The balancing act in political candidate debates

One of the things I've gained during this campaign is a new appreciation for how challenging it can be to produce and facilitate a meaningful and substantive political debate that is valuable to voters.  Between the spring primary and the general election, I can think of at least eight events where myself and some combination of other candidates for office were asked to debate (or converse, or discuss) the issues facing Richmond and Wayne County for an hour or more.

At each event, as a candidate I've tried to balance a series of (sometimes competing) goals for my participation, including:

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Our 'insufficient' answers about hope

Speaking at a town hall forumLast night was the second scheduled event during the general election cycle when candidates for an at-large position on City Council got together to answer questions from people in the community about issues facing Richmond.  More so than the Chamber-sponsored debates last week, I thought the questions posed by attendees revealed a lot about what's on the hearts and minds of members of our community.

We were asked about education, access to affordable housing, how to pay for proposed improvements in City government, the local Latino population, the community's relationship with its workers, what we can do to keep more college graduates here, whether Council members should be injecting themselves into private business decisions, and more.

But I think the one question that was probably most  piercing for all of us was from Toivo Asheeke, who asked what we as Council members would do to restore a sense of hope and empowerment to people who live in Richmond.  It's a huge, important, emotional question, and as Toivo was quoted as saying in today's Palladium-Item, our answers as candidates were indeed "insufficient."

As candidates running for one seat on a 9-seat local legislative body in a small city in the Midwestern U.S., it might be tempting to shrug off the call to play a role in restoring hope and empowerment in our citizens.  And politicians should rightly be careful to make promises they can't keep - if you believed the statements that sometimes came out of President Obama's election campaign, for example, as soon as he was sworn in there was going to be so much hope and empowerment flowing in the streets we'd choke on it; how's that working out for us?

But I do think restoring hope and a sense of empowerment is something City Council can impact here in Richmond, and that's what I said last night:

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Why Rep. Joe Wilson's outburst was good for you

Republican Congressman Joe Wilson has already apologized for his lack of civility in last night's joint session of Congress, after shouting "you lie!" at President Barack Obama during Obama's speech about health care reform. Wilson is unsurprisingly being raked over the coals by fellow politicians, the media, and indignant bloggers and Twitter users, but I'm not sure we don't also owe him a word of thanks.

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Richmondite notes digerati exclusivity in CNN/YouTube debate

The CNN Political Ticker has published a comment by Nancy Kolger of Richmond, Indiana, in response to last night's CNN/YouTube Republican Political Debate:

As a Senior Citizen I am really disappointed that not one question was asked about Health Care and rising Drug Costs for all the people. I can send you an email response and/or question but I do not know how to take or send a video or download and all that other stuff that younger people do. So therefore I was not given the chance to ask a question and I feel this is a form of discrimination...

Kolger goes on to suggest some topics that she would have wanted to cover had she been able to submit a question. The responses in the comments range from agreement to disagreement to outright insult. Of course this is all happening on the highly interactive website of the news organization that pioneered the fast-paced media product directed at short attention spans. I suspect there are some "senior citizens" out there who wouldn't know how to point a mouse at cnn.com, and some who are preparing their YouTube video responses complete with CGI effects right now. Good for Nancy for getting this far.

Richmond can still host a 2008 Presidential Debate

The news came yesterday that Richmond was not selected as one of the sites for a Presidential / Vice Presidential Debate in Fall 2008. It's certainly too bad given the potential it had for bringing attention to Richmond, but as EDC President Jim Dinkle has been saying, just the unity and positive image we presented in bidding for the debate was itself a great achievement, and one we can build on in the future.

Of course, we still CAN have a Presidential / Vice Presidential Debate here in the Fall of 2008, and one that gets national media attention. Continue reading "Richmond can still host a 2008 Presidential Debate"

The haters are writing in, what are you doing?

Turtle on the GreenwayThere's some real vitriol out there in "letter to the editor" land, especially here in Richmond. In the Palladium-Item, we like to play the game "How Many People Can You Insult in 300 Words or Less?" sometimes also known as "The Wheel of Not So Subtle Discrimination and Hate-mongering!" Today's contestant is Paul M. Yevcak who says that "hypocrisy proves middle name for liberal Democrats."

My response, posted in the forums (despite my better judgement):

It would be possible to debate some of Mr. Yevcak's points related to the role of the courts, the history and nuances of U.S. immigration policy, and the legal technicalities of the recent presidential intervention in the Libby case. But I'm not sure what purpose that would serve, since Mr. Yevcak seems intent not on having meaningful debate or dialogue, but just on disparaging and insulting a wide swath of people, essentially on the grounds that they don't agree with him about how the world should work. And of course, when that is someone's goal, you can't really have a meaningful conversation with them.

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