With an eye on Election Day 2020, the News Tribune’s Editorial Board is about to reload.
Two new citizen representatives will join the board next week, both with backgrounds in newspapering and both with strongly held viewpoints formed from years of influence from the left and right.
College of St. Scholastica communications and theater professor Sharon Obst and well-known civil trial lawyer Jim Peterson will join Publisher Neal Ronquist, Editorial Page Editor Chuck Frederick, and News Tribune Employee Representative Kris Vereecken on the board. They’ll be the ones who’ll screen this fall’s candidates, whether in interviews or at public forums, and decide the newspaper's endorsements as well as the opinions the newspaper offers on an almost-daily basis.
The News Tribune introduces its rotations of Editorial Board members as part of a commitment to transparency and full disclosure. The newspaper feels readers have a right to know from where editorial opinions come. The newspaper's "Our View" editorials are the stands of the newspaper as determined by the Editorial Board. Few newspapers seek participation and input from community residents.
“I understand why you want to get new voices in to kind of avoid that group-think mentality, and I love the idea that you cycle people in so you don’t have the same people and same perspectives all the time,” said Obst, who also has taught classes on internet shaming, conflict, argumentation, group communication, interpersonal communication, and more at St. Scholastica.
Earning an undergraduate degree in mass communications, Obst was on the student newspaper staff of the Promethean at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. She earned her graduate degree in communications and theater.
Obst was a delegate to the Republican state convention in Rochester, Minnesota, in 2008 and is a political centrist now, she said. Her husband is a Republican. If forced to choose, she said she leans a bit left now.
“I’ve seen both sides, and I think it’s really great when all voices are being heard,” said Obst, who lives in Cloquet. “I look at the editorial page of the Duluth News Tribune as a common voice for the area. And being able to have a common voice say, ‘Here’s our bird’s eye view of what’s happening, here’s what we can see, here’s what we can recommend to you’ is valuable for a community. People from divergent backgrounds come together (on the editorial board) and say, ‘Here’s what we can recommend. We’ve looked at all of the options, and here’s the candidate we’ve landed on and here’s why. Not just it’s my gut opinion, but here’s why.’”
Jim Peterson also worked for his student newspaper in college, the Daily Cardinal at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He attended law school at the University of Minnesota before returning to Duluth. He’s a partner now at the firm of Falsani, Balmer, Peterson, and Balmer. He has been there since 1989.
Peterson leans left politically but grew up listening to stories told by his grandfather, a doctor on the Iron Range in Virginia who was a Republican and who sat with mining and railroad dignitaries at state Republican conventions.
“I care a lot about Duluth and northern Minnesota. I try to understand what both sides are really saying about an issue like new mining projects,” Peterson said. “I like newspapers. If I can help or at least give my two cents to the News Tribune Editorial Board’s discussions, I’m excited to do that. Everybody likes to give their opinions. … and I certainly like to do that.”
With the additions of Obst and Peterson, the terms of citizen representatives Kenneth Risdon and Kelsey Dooley come to a close. The News Tribune can't thank them enough for their devoted, thoughtful, and involved service.