In your articles on the declining readership of newspapers, newspaper publishers and journalism experts come across like a paternalistic, corporate priesthood. We, the unruly readers, have started to think for ourselves. The priests aren’t happy.
In my opinion, one of the biggest problems with newspapers is that they are entirely a one-way street, and readers are beginning to recognize this. Every day you sell things to us, and you talk at us, but we have no input. Your Letters to the Editor column is a token. Your Op-Ed page is a forum for professional writers, and others who already have an audience.
I think that my modest suggestion would be good for both newspapers and for their communities: create a true public access section. Actively solicit writing from the community, and let the people write about anything they want (subject only to libel laws, standards of good taste, and a non-commercial purpose). Hire a panel of people from all walks of community life to screen the incoming letters and opinion pieces. Change the panel every few years.
Will a community access section be uneven, chaotic, and “unprofessional”? Without a doubt it will, and that is precisely the point. If a newspaper is truly willing to reach out to the community, in all its disarray, I think the community will return the favor.