Changes coming to the Missourian's opinion section

Friday, February 27, 2009 | 1:30 p.m. CST

J. Karl Miller has been writing a weekly column for the Missourian since 2006. Before he became a columnist, he was a frequent letter writer concerned about local and national issues.

David Rosman also started out as a frequent letter writer. He has now penned 94 columns for the Missourian, according to the archive at And I’m sure the count is much higher, since he was writing well before the opinion section first debuted online.


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I’m also sure David will post a comment at the Web site correcting me on the number of columns he’s actually written. And when he does, we’ll print it on the Missourian’s opinion page.

That’s what I love about the Missourian’s newly designed opinion page. Designer Emily Ristow came up with a new look for a new era in the Missourian’s 100-year history — the five-day-a-week era.

This design was done to provide the best of our opinion section content in print, whether it be something from a local columnist such as Miller or Rosman, or something shorter from readers who want to participate by leaving comments at or on our Facebook page.

You can also find us on Twitter, by the way.

A few other changes we hope you’ll like:

  • The opinion section is a place for community conversation, which is now reflected on the flag of the print Missourian – Write, Reflect, Respond.
  • On Tuesday, we’ll debut the new Voices column, featuring the aforementioned reader comments from the Missourian’s various online haunts.
  • The new Today’s Question column follows the same format as the old Five Ideas column: A critical examination of a hot topic in the news paired with a question that serves as the invitation to get the conversation rolling.
  • The Dear Reader column will move from the Weekend Missourian to Sunday’s edition. You'll continue to find it on Friday afternoons online.
  • We still love to run your letters to the editor and your guest columns. Please send them to, or mail them to PO Box 917, Columbia, MO 65211.

The point to stress here is that you don’t have to be a Rosman or a Miller to have your voice heard. You can send it to us in a short form, a long form, a video form, an audio form, a Flash form, etc. etc. The medium is yours to choose.

We’ll continue to bring as much of your content to print as possible. And you can find it all on the Web.

Speaking of conversation, I had an interesting conversation with John McCain this week. Yes, I mean Sen. John McCain, the same man who recently ran for president.

I follow the senator’s tweets on Twitter, and I was very excited when he tweeted that he would be listing the top 10 porkiest bills in the omnibus spending bill Congress considered this week. Here is a partial list from his tweets:

  • $475,000 for a parking garage in Provo, Utah
  • $1.7 million for a honeybee factory in Weslaco, Texas
  • $200,000 for “tattoo removal violence outreach program to … help gang members or others shed visible signs of their past. REALLY?”
  • $300,000 for Montana World Trade Center
  • $1 million for Mormon cricket control in Utah, to which McCain quips “Is that the species of cricket or a game played by Brits.”

McCain isn’t the only U.S. senator on Twitter. Claire McCaskill offers some interesting insight about committee hearings, votes and her personal life. And, as she noted in one tweet, it also gives her a chance to speak directly to “Missourians about my day without reporters editing.”

While the senator may appreciate her ability to tweet unfiltered, she did find herself “busted” not only by the media, but by her own mother.

The elder McCaskill got on her daughter for tweeting during President Barack Obama’s speech Tuesday night. Like a good tweeter, McCaskill tweeted about it but claimed she only tweeted at the very beginning of the speech and afterward, not during.

Not true, says Comedy Central’s Stephen Colbert. By checking the time stamp of McCaskill’s tweet against tape of Obama’s speech, he discovered it came about nine minutes in. (Click here to watch the video of Colbert's "bust.")

Maybe it’s not the traditional definition of watchdog journalism, but it does demonstrate how Twitter and journalism can make beautiful music together.

Jake Sherlock is the Missourian’s opinion page editor. Contact him at or at 882-9951.

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Mike Martin February 28, 2009 | 11:57 a.m.

Are you guys paying J. Karl, David Rosman and your other columnists now?

I know a discussion of that sort was in the works and it sounded very promising.

As a professional writer, I think it's very important for publishers to pay for any editorial content of the type Karl, David, George Kennedy, et. al. provide (as regular columnists in a newspaper that sells both subscriptions and ads and pays its other staffers).

This should be especially true in our business, which is -- or should be -- one of advocating for social and economic justice.

(Report Comment)
Jake Sherlock March 1, 2009 | 2:04 p.m.


Unfortunately, I have no budget to pay columnists. Our younger columnists do it to gain exposure and for the experience (and, occasionally, for a grade). Our older columnists do it for love of the genre, mostly.

I don't disagree at all with your assertion that they should be paid. I hope we can someday get the Missourian to a financially healthy place that we can begin paying our columnists.

Jake Sherlock
Opinion editor

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin March 1, 2009 | 5:27 p.m.


I spoke about this issue early last year with Tom Warhover, et. al. and this is indeed unfortunate news. To a professional writer, it's the worst news possible.

David Rosman has done 94 unpaid columns? My goodness! And J. Karl has been writing for free for 3 years? At what point have they proven themselves worthy of a paycheck? Even a few cents a word? And even if they won't ask for it?

What does it say when MU can pay the football coach millions, but columnists in its flagship newspaper nothing?

Are you working for free? Are any of the other editors?

IMHO, the J-School is modeling the worst possible behavior for its young charges and frankly, taking advantage of these writers, who aren't students, but community members with proven track records and audience readership.

Since I'm a taxpayer and this is a publicly funded institution, I feel within my rights pointing this out. I know it goes on privately, but it's a much, much bigger deal here.

Listen to Harlan Ellison's commentary on the issue of writing for free. Caution: he minces no words, but certainly conveys what many of us writers and journalists feel:

Here are several additional perspectives on the issue of writing for free.

(Report Comment)
Katie Walley March 1, 2009 | 8:27 p.m.

Columbia Heartbeat:
Because of his service to the Missourian, David Rosman has been able to take some MU journalism courses for free. Just this summer, I was in a general copy editing course with Mr. Rosman. The course allowed him to extend his AP knowledge. I do believe he is taking an editorial class this semester. It may not be a pay check, but an opportunity to expand one's skill set.

I can not speak to the status of any other columnists.

(Report Comment)
Mike Martin March 2, 2009 | 4:25 p.m.

I'm glad to hear David Rosman is getting compensation he hopefully finds satisfying, but so should all the other Missourian columnists.

Here's another issue to mull over:

A couple of years ago, the Missourian "fired" John Merrill from his unpaid writing gig over an allegation of plagiarism. The fact that he was working for nothing was not revealed at the time.

Now, however, the dilemma is immediately obvious: Merrill was expected to act like a professional, but he wasn't treated as a professional, i.e. he wasn't being paid for his work, the very definition of "professional."

In any other business, freebies come with a well-known caveat: you get what you pay for.

While no one argued that in this case, the other side of this issue -- that Merrill was forced to function as an amateur, rather than professional, journalist -- seriously undercuts the Missourian's moral and ethical high ground.

What, after all, is the most basic definition of economic injustice? Not paying someone for their work.

In his commentary on Merrill, Missourian editor Tom Warhover said, "I believe the Missourian, and the School of Journalism, must hold itself to a higher standard."



(Report Comment)

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