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Our View: New views needed for News Tribune Editorial Board

From the editorial: "While few newspapers seek participation and input from residents, this opportunity in Duluth to give back to your community and to support the local newspaper remains invaluable."

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For community members who choose to step up, service on the News Tribune Editorial Board is typically a commitment of about six months. Citizen-representative slots have long been regularly rotated to help ensure that fresh perspectives and a diversity of community viewpoints inform the newspaper’s editorial decisions and positions.

Current citizen representatives Sharon Obst and Jim Peterson, however, have been on the board since February 2020. Everyone knows what happened a month into their terms. The world was shut down by COVID-19. Many meetings and business dealings went virtual. Nearly two years later, it remains difficult to rotate them out, not only because meeting in person and interviewing and conducting what once were normal activities remain difficult, but because Obst and Peterson have been such attentive, insightful, and valuable members.

Their terms will finally end, however, with the new year — and with gratitude from both the newspaper and its readers.

In the first weeks of 2022, the News Tribune will begin looking for replacements. If you’re interested, send an email to Editorial Page Editor Chuck Frederick at cfrederick@duluthnews.com . Include a bit about yourself, your politics, your community involvement, and why you’d like to serve. Please note, the incoming citizen representatives are likely to serve through the midterm elections. They’ll join permanent board members Neal Ronquist, the News Tribune’s publisher; Kris Vereecken, DNT news assistant and employee representative; and Frederick.

Obst is a communications and theater professor at the College of St. Scholastica. She came to the editorial board with a bit of newspaper experience, when she was a student at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. A political centrist, she said in early 2020 that if she had to choose, she’d say she leans a bit to the left these days.

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“It’s been a very interesting and learning experience for me, so I really appreciated the opportunity to serve on the board,” Obst said this week. “It is something I would recommend people consider doing, not just because it’s a really interesting board to serve on, but because of the opportunities to kind of step outside of your comfort zone and learn about new areas that perhaps you didn’t know anything about before. And you can meet really interesting people.” She cited edit board meetings with Gov. Tim Walz and U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith of Minnesota as examples.

Also, with regard to elections, “I never would have heard from all of the candidates had I not been on the board … (to hear) all their different perspectives,” she said. “Making connections with the people you interview is kind of neat, too.”

Peterson is well known in Duluth and the Northland as a civil trial lawyer. He also worked for his student newspaper at the University of Wisconsin in Madison and has been a partner at the firm of Falsani, Balmer, Peterson, and Balmer since 1989. He, too, leans left politically, he said, but he also grew up listening to stories told by his grandfather, a doctor on the Iron Range in Virginia and a Republican who sat with mining and railroad dignitaries at state Republican conventions.

“I would encourage anyone to have the great experience I did while on the DNT editorial board,” Peterson said this week. “Listening to and … questioning candidates, newsmakers, and people with stories and concerns really taught me about our community. And then to see an idea put into words and on the page was fantastic. It’s also so important that we support local newspapers and journalists who reflect our small part of the world.”

If you feel similarly, the News Tribune Editorial Board needs you. Young people and people of color are especially encouraged to express interest. The position is unpaid, and many meetings and editorial board discussions are still being conducted via email and Zoom. While few newspapers seek participation and input from residents, this opportunity in Duluth to give back to your community and to support the local newspaper remains invaluable.

And you (probably) won’t have to serve for two years.

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