Randy Petersen: Not quite a stranger — and eager to join the discussion
Last week was a whirlwind.
Starting a new job is never easy, but the Post-Bulletin staff attempted to ease the new editorial page editor into the position.
Former Editorial Page Editor Eric Atherton and Editorial Writer Dwight Boyum, along with a host of others, were willing to answer questions about the daily activities behind the scenes, while Publisher Randy Chapman was more than ready to introduce the "new" Randy to the Rochester community.
Even with all the help, names and faces were a blur for the first few days.
Still, one question echoed throughout the week: "What do you think?"
Most often the question was seeking my opinion of the newspaper or Rochester, but the question also is likely on many readers' minds whenever someone new is tasked with writing editorials and helping guide the community discussion on the Opinions page.
The Opinions page is the heart of any newspaper, and the Post-Bulletin's heart has been healthy.
Atherton, Boyum and other members of the Post-Bulletin's editorial board have been doing a terrific job in shepherding community discussion and giving a voice to those wanting to share their views and ask questions of their community leaders.
As a southeastern Minnesota native, I have long held the Post-Bulletin in high regard as a news source. Throughout my years working at various Midwest newspapers, my dad had a favorite greeting nearly every time I visited Rochester, where my parents have lived for about two decades.
"Here you go, in case you want to read a real newspaper," he'd say as he handed me the latest edition of the Post-Bulletin.
As I read those copies, I grew to realize the importance of the newspaper's role in helping the community share its views and understand its differences.
The Post-Bulletin has made that role a key part of its operation throughout the years. As a result, the Opinions page is more than the heart of the newspaper. It is the heart of the community and southeastern Minnesota.
As for what I think, many of my personal opinions regarding issues facing Rochester and the surrounding communities will continue to be formed as I research them and talk with area residents and community leaders.
As a frequent Rochester visitor during the past two decades, I am moving to the city with a working knowledge of some basic issues. Still, after just a few days of meeting various community leaders and advocates, I have grown increasingly aware that each issue has multiple layers.
The goal of the journalist is to gather facts and present all sides. While opinion writers have more leeway to inject personal views, they remain journalists at heart and owe it to the readers to understand all aspects of a given topic.
That's where the community can step up and help.
Letters from readers and guest commentaries from local officials and experts throughout southeast Minnesota not only help us understand all sides of the issues affecting our readers, they also give others a chance to compare their views with their neighbors' opinions. Whether it's finding people who agree or others who are willing to debate merits of a specific topic, it's all about starting a discussion.
And it all starts with a simple question: What do you think?
Randy Petersen is the Post-Bulletin's editorial page editor. You can reach him at (507) 285-7709 or firstname.lastname@example.org.