OPINION: Talking about writing with the Community Advisory Board of the Latino Communities Reporting Lab

I’d been looking forward to the first meeting of the Community Advisory Board of the Latino Communities Reporting Lab, held recently at the Record-Journal. Readers know by now about the intensifying effort to draw focus on the perspectives and experiences of the Latino communities. The advisory board is now an important element in that endeavor. I was there to talk about the opinion page.

Members, asked to serve for a year, are to meet each month. I was talking the other day with Jareliz Diaz, one of the Latino lab reporters, about something else, actually, when the topic of the board came up. “It’s a very diverse group of people,” she observed. “That’s something I think is important.”

The diversity is a strength. There are students and educators, community and business leaders. The Rev. James Manship, of St. Rose Church, is participating, as are Marissa Perez Cardona, at risk college and career coordinator at Meriden Public Schools, and Maria Campos Harlow, executive director of the United Way of Meriden-Wallingford, among others.

There were those attending in person and some attending on screen. Remarkably, it was my first hybrid meeting since the onset of the pandemic. I still prefer in-person, but consider it fortunate that we have the ability to carry on virtually. One day, the distinction won’t seem so distinctive, is my guess.

What matters is what you’re talking about. Before the lab initiative launched, Record-Journal staff had devoted time to community listening, which is pretty much what it sounds like: having conversations and learning from them, with members of the local Latino community. The advisory board is part of keeping those conversations going as the overall effort continues.

The opinion page can serve as a meaningful focal point for conversations. That’s one of the reasons each board member is encouraged to write a column. When I was thinking about what I would say to members of the advisory board I recognized it was essentially what I would say to anyone, which is that the opinion page is an opportunity to be heard.

It also occurred to me that an understanding of the structure of the opinion page is something that perhaps should not be taken for granted. Before the advent of the internet, the printed page was dominant, and how elements were organized on the page was likely something readers more readily recognized, like finding your way on a map instead of GPS. While there can be opinion in other parts of the newspaper, the editorial page is devoted to it.

So, in hopes it would help my invitation to contribute, and recognizing there were probably those for whom the explanation was not necessary, I talked about how (and you can turn to D2 to see an example), the editorial, which is the opinion of the news organization, runs on the left side, an op-ed or column under the political cartoon to the right, and perhaps letters to the editor underneath. All maintain distinctions in the more contemporary ways of delivering opinion, but sometimes it’s helpful to have the map in mind. You can, for example, think of a column as drawing its name from print heritage (as in, like this one, running down a column). Op-eds are opposite the editorial page, or opposite the editorial.

There have already been opinion pieces that resulted from invitations to the Latino community at the time the lab effort launched. It would be ideal if that would become routine.

My specific intent for that initial meeting, other than to get out and spend time with interesting people, was to invite members of the advisory board to contribute and offer help, if needed. That extends to the wider Latino community, and, of course, beyond.

Reach Jeffery Kurz at jkurz@record-journal.com.



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