The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

February 16, 2014

There will be cookies

By Gary Grossman
The Daily Item

— Every now and then, thoughtful readers come to the newspaper with points of view that are well researched, fully formed, very impressive and probably would not have occurred to us, or at least to me.

As much as we try for complete coverage and regular reporting, it sometimes seems that we barely touch upon some matters that mean more to people than we appreciate.

This column is an invitation to regular readers to see if anyone wants to help us open new avenues for coverage in the Valley. We would like to form a reader board that is broad-based and focused on this organization’s service to the region.

We have occasional meetings with groups of people who are focused on specific projects, proposals and problems. Two recent ones that come to mind are citizens groups who asked for editorial board meetings to draw our attention to implications of a tire-fuel proposal in White Deer and another group who wanted to express a different point of view on the direction Lewisburg was taking toward a new high school.

Editorial boards and reader boards are similar, but not exactly alike. Editorial boards usually focus on advocacy or appeals to public opinion for support one way or another and often ask for coverage or the backing of the opinion page for a specific point of view.

Reader boards are more about us, the newspaper, and they are a little selfish in that respect. What we would like to do is convene a group of readers from around the Valley once a month to discuss how well or poorly the newspaper is serving their interests.

Advocacy and opinion are not excluded, but we tend to steer reader boards toward how our work can be more valuable to individuals, communities and to the progress and improvement that most people want to see in their lives.

The drill is easy, informal and, we fully intend and hope, convivial.

We would host a meeting for an hour once a month at the newspaper, including light refreshments, where public-spirited folks can talk with each other and with us about stories we have reported or ought to explore.

Along the way, the participants are encouraged to ask why we do what we do and to wonder if we might change to do it better. I think we take criticism well, but everybody says that and we wouldn’t be the ones to judge, now would we?

I have worked with reader boards a number of times and mentioned some of those experiences in this column. Based on those experiences, we try to keep the discussion moving, often starting with a specific focus, but assure all participants an opportunity to raise subjects and have a say in future agendas.

In the past, these boards have informed news coverage, generated a range of stories, developed non-traditional sources and made some longer-term friendships.

If this sounds like something you enjoy, let us know. It is completely voluntary. Members rotate into and out of reader boards. We promise not to wear you out, but we would ask that anyone volunteering would be willing to attend several sessions so we get a little chance to know each other.

We will publicize who the members of the reader board are so that other readers might communicate through reader board members to the newspaper.

Our business is changing. The way people communicate and the way they relate to each other and to their surroundings is evolving rapidly. Our intention is to listen to what this means to people who participate in the reader board and act upon that information in how we approach the print and digital mix going forward.

If this appeals to you, please write up to 300 words explaining why you would like to participate, what you would like the meetings to discuss and something about your interest or experience you think would help.

Send these notes of interest to The Daily Item, Reader Board, c/o Gary Grossman, 200 Market Street, Sunbury, PA, 17801. Or send an email to ggrossman@dailyitem.com with “reader board” in the subject line.

P.S. Regular readership for this column may be less than imagined or necessary. So yes, we will pitch this idea elsewhere in the newspaper.

Gary Grossman is the publisher or The Daily Item and Danville News.