Focusing on a more productive forum
November 6, 2012
Each day, here on its opinion page, The Union provides a forum where readers can discuss issues and ideas with other members of the community.
According to my handy-dandy dictionary, the idea of a forum itself dates back to ancient Rome, where legal and political business was conducted in the public square.
Considering it's an election year, we've had plenty of political "business" published on these pages in recent weeks and over the course of several months. And that's a good thing, as long as it's a productive conversation — hopefully centered on community-relevant issues — based in factual information and authored in order to further the discussion.
But in what even both our presidential candidates call the "silly season" of an election year, our community conversations take a back seat to the back-and-forth right-vs.-left, liberal-vs.-conservative, red-vs.-blue shouting matches dominating cable TV 24/7.
Take the time to set that tone you seek ...
Sure, we're one week away from Election Day, and the passion is apparent on these pages as well — but not really on issues where we can make an impact. Other than an occasional letter to the editor on one of the local tax measures, or an Other Voices op-ed from a candidate, most of the discussion has centered on how horrible electing Barack Obama or Mitt Romney would be for our country.
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And you've noticed it. Phone calls sharing concern over the tone of opinion pieces published here have pointed that out.
So how do we get a more civil conversation in this community forum, one focused on finding common ground — you know, "crossing the aisle" in order to come up with actual solutions to the problems that plague us?
Here's a novel idea. Write. Take the time to set that tone you seek through writing a rational, thoughtful commentary — preferably on a community-relevant issue. But if you, like the current campaigns canvassing TV commercial breaks, still seek to convince undecided voters, try and do so by focusing on why you're voting for a candidate, rather than simply against the opposition.
Such a simple step, at the very least, would be in the direction of a more productive public forum.
For those interested in writing on the election, however, the deadline will be 5 p.m. Thursday, in order to allow The Union enough time to turn opinion pieces for Saturday, the last day we'll publish election-related letters and Other Voices. Due to space constraints, Other Voices submissions (up to 750 words in length) will be less likely to be published than Letters to the Editor (up to 200 words).
Speaking of the opinion pages, The Union is forming its editorial board for 2013. For those interested in joining and who can devote one hour to a weekly discussion, please contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and share why you'd like to participate.
Brian Hamilton is managing editor at The Union. Contact him at email@example.com or at (530) 477-4249.