Laura Johnston

Laura Johnston is a senior news editor at the Missourian.

Dear Reader,

It’s been some time since I wrote seeking more voices for our Opinion section — and boy did you come through. There’s barely been a day since mid-March that I have not received at least one letter to the editor or commentary from a reader.

You and your neighbors have consistently filled the Missourian’s Opinion section online and in print with voices from Columbia — and sometimes beyond — since the early days of the stay-at-home order. Little did I know that so many of you would use your time during the lockdown to share thoughts on all the issues that matter to you. I’m so glad you did, too.

My hope is you’ll continue to share your thoughts as we embrace the heavier push of campaign season ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

There are a few things to keep in mind if you plan to submit a letter to the editor or guest commentary. We typically accept letters that are about 250 words or fewer. Anything longer than that will be considered for a guest commentary piece. We don’t accept anonymous submissions, either.

We’re being extra careful in our editing process to fact-check statistics and claims made, so if you have sources for your data or can provide hyperlinks, we’d love to have those resources as well.

We label each opinion submission so you can easily tell what you’re reading. All our local columnists’ commentaries begin with their name in all capital letters, followed by the headline that summarizes their piece. Letters to the editors are labeled in a similar fashion, as are guest commentaries.

The Missourian doesn’t write its own editorials since we don’t have an editorial board. But we do publish editorials from other news outlets when the topic seems relevant to larger discussions in our community or society. Those are often excerpts or reprints used with permission, and I’ve heard from some of you who completed a survey that you’d prefer to see less from The Kansas City Star or St. Louis Post-Dispatch, so I’m trying to broaden our range on editorials. Lastly, I wanted to tell you that you’ll start to see other changes on our site beginning Monday, as we’ve turned off the comment function on stories and opinion commentaries on our website for the time being. You can still comment on our Facebook posts or reply on Twitter.

This change comes in part because research studies show that comments don’t boost the reader engagement we’d previously hoped to see. We have found that the conversations often spiraled off topic and did not welcome all commenters.

We will take this time to work on revamping those guidelines and determining how our platform can provide a more thoughtful exchange of ideas.

I hope that you take this opportunity to turn your comments into more letters to the editor and guest commentaries so we can continue our robust conversations.

If you have questions, please contact me at johnstonlc@missouri.edu, or offer us feedback overall through our online forms.


About opinions in the Missourian: The Missourian’s Opinion section is a public forum for the discussion of ideas. The views presented in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Missourian or the University of Missouri. If you would like to contribute to the Opinion page with a response or an original topic of your own, visit our submission form.

Laura Johnston is Opinion editor at the Missourian and an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism.

  • News editor at the interactive copy desk and an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Recommended for you