Once a month, my bosses and I meet with a group of people who have volunteered to give us a piece of their minds.
They tell us what we've messed up, what we've missed, what we should be doing and what we've gotten right. Members of this group also call and email me pretty often to pass along ideas and feedback that come up between the monthly meetings.
I'm talking about the Missourian's Readers Board, and I leave every meeting and every phone call grateful for the ways they make us better.
We're inviting applications for the next iteration of the Readers Board, and you can apply by answering the questions at the bottom of this column, or by calling me at 882-8182.
With the Readers Board, the learning goes two ways. While the readers are helping us stay in touch with our community, they're also learning about how a news operation works.
Topics during last year's board meetings included how we decide what's news, how we approach sources on sensitive stories, how we go after new business models, how we choose the size of the type in the newspaper and how social media platforms and online comments are changing journalism.
The meetings are attended regularly by Executive Editor Tom Warhover and General Manager Dan Potter, along with myself. Other staff members (students and professionals) sometimes attend, from the newsroom and from the business side.
And did I mention there are some pretty rockin' hors d'oeuvres provided?
Our goal is to build a board that represents the area's diversity — in age, race, culture, experience and perspective. You need not be a daily reader to apply — interest and general awareness of what we do will suffice. Typically, we try to have 10 to 12 Readers Board members per session.
I asked current and previous Readers Board members what they would tell people about the experience. Here's what they had to say:
“I learned not only what it takes to produce a daily newspaper, but about the world-class journalism being taught every day at the Missourian. I also learned more about how the Missourian connects to our community, and how that relationship is evolving. I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the Readers Board.” — Scott Wilson, attorney, The Hines Law Firm
"Being a part of the Missourian Readers Board allowed me to understand the business, the process of running a newspaper, and it gave me a profound appreciation for the work that is done to connect with the community and keep them informed, in ways that they like to be informed. Our discussions were lively, honest and wide ranging." — Tyree Byndom, human resource consultant and community talk show host
"I have really enjoyed my time on the Readers Board. It has brought me a different perspective of the newsroom from my usual view as 'source.' I have more empathy for the journalists contacting me for interviews and make every concession to answer their questions or point them to a better source because I have seen where they are coming from." — Barbara Buffaloe, sustainability manager for the city of Columbia
"Being a member of the Readers Board opened my eyes to community journalism. In Columbia we are fortunate to have dedicated faculty and staff — many with impressive global accolades — aiding the journalists of tomorrow in conceiving, writing, editing, (re-editing) and developing a world-class daily paper.” — Kate Gunn, advancement officer for MU and executive director of Artrageous Fridays
Get to know last year's Readers Board members by taking a look at their bios.
If you're interested in being considered for this year's Readers Board, fill out the questionnaire below. (You will also become part of the Public Insight Network, a project designed to help journalists learn from their community's expertise.) None of your information will be shared outside the newsroom.