A broader lens for looking at issues

Very soon, the Daily Herald editorial board will formally describe a project that I’m very excited about. I think it will help inform our editorials with a unique depth of background and, just as important, will help demonstrate that well-meaning people of diverse backgrounds can engage constructively even when they disagree emphatically.

The members of our editorial board are listed at the top of the Opinion page and on our website every day. We are men and women who, from the vantage points of our various leadership roles, develop the traditions and tone of the newspaper’s institutional voice. We share with each other our ideas about what we see and learn, then form those thoughts into editorials that we hope will engage you, inspire you or otherwise influence you and other thought leaders to make wise decisions about topics affecting our community, state and nation.

It can be an extensive process, but whatever its rigors, it will be stronger if it doesn’t take place in a vacuum. While the members of our board represent a wide range of life experiences, we do all channel those experiences through the same lens of a journalist. Our reflections will be more meaningful, we realize, if we can expand that lens, opening it to experiences we may interact with occasionally, may even be very familiar with, but don’t directly share in our daily lives.

To that end, we’re creating another small panel. Let’s call it an editorial sounding board. We’ve sought out people with direct, street-level expertise in various walks of life — social services, education, justice, government, religion, business, culture and more. We’re asking them to be on hand to listen to our ideas about editorial topics and maybe add some of their own, then share with each other and with us the arguments about these topics that resonate with them.

The individuals will not be setting our editorial agenda nor in any way speaking for the paper. Indeed, we’ve purposely organized a group with widely diverse points of view along the political and social spectrum and we don’t expect them to reach a unified consensus on most issues. But they will help us reach such a consensus as an editorial board. Their varied arguments and influences will assure that whatever opinion we reach on behalf of the newspaper will have considered thoughts and opinions we may not even have known to include in our own thinking.

We expect candid, lively interactions with members of this team. We will not be conducting on-the-record interviews. Other than when we announce the group’s formation in the next couple of weeks and on rare occasions later, you likely will never see them quoted or connected to a specific editorial. But their influence will be baked into all our work. I’ll have more to tell you about the process soon. We have nine members of the group on board now and are in the process of adding one or two more. When we have them all in place, we’ll make a formal announcement with detailed introductions. For now, I wanted you to know that this project is on the horizon. Will it change our opinions? Maybe. Maybe not. But it will definitely make them better. Stay tuned to see how.

Jim Slusher, [email protected], is deputy managing editor for opinion at the Daily Herald. Follow him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jim.slusher1 and on Twitter at @JimSlusher