Guns. Crime and punishment. Poverty. Jobs. Redistricting and voting. Food insecurity. Housing. Educational attainment or lack thereof. Health inequities. City budgeting. Struggling communities and all the other problems – systemic or otherwise – that challenge residents.
Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service prides itself on reporting on the myriad issues confronting the North and South side communities. The list above is but a partial list of the issues we cover.
Another point of pride: Including in our stories the voices of people tackling and living with such issues.
But these are people talking to us. In this fashion, they help us bring clarity and understanding to these issues. We believe that information can be empowerment.
Here’s what we want to get better at: Giving you and your voices a more direct path to the community – a more direct way to let your voice be heard.
It is the premise behind the Community Voices section of our online news service. But we know that we cannot possibly talk to everyone with the wisdom and the ideas that lead to solutions.
Community Voices gives people who live in the neighborhoods we cover – and people who work to solve their problems – a forum to call attention to issues and to advance possible solutions.
We are issuing a call for more of this.
What’s contained in Community Voices is commentary. The articles, in journalism jargon, are op-eds. That means, more often than not, they contain opinion.
Opinion journalism is a much maligned concept. That, however, is because it is too often misunderstood.
The best commentary is not about just spouting what is top-of-mind. They are not rants nor license for name-calling or just getting things off your chest.
The best commentary pieces are those that make legitimate efforts to persuade. This necessarily involves building arguments and then supporting them. The best commentary marshals facts to arrive at valid conclusions – as in, here’s problem X, here are the facts that prove it is a problem, and here are the facts that point to a solution or the beginning of one.
The best commentary does not argue in a vacuum. It acknowledges the counterarguments to what is being proposed and addresses them.
Good commentary can also call attention to needs many are unaware of.
They can get out of the box to arrive at unorthodox solutions, again, buttressed with facts.
They can celebrate or highlight successes, decry traditional tactics or strategies to deal with problems and can educate people on resources they need to improve their lives.
They can entertain – not all have to be about weighty issues. They can make us laugh. They can make us cry.
Just as news stories require reporting and attributed facts, so does good commentary.
We want your voice and your views.
We are looking for commentary in the 700-word range.
Keep in mind, we are a nonprofit dependent on grants, in-kind funding and contributions. We do not have an immense budget.
That means we don’t pay for freelance commentary. We wish we could but can’t.
So we’re looking for Community Voice commentators who want to expose the community to their voices and ideas simply for the benefit of the community – its growth, success, education and empowerment.
We are looking for commentators who want to move the dial on bettering our community.
You don’t have to run an organization, have a PhD or other degree or be an acknowledged expert in any particular field – though we welcome commentary from these sources as well. We will give priority to those writing from the communities we cover and those tackling the issues with which these communities grapple.
Got an idea for commentary? Send me a pitch.
Got one written? Send it to me.
Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Put commentary in the subject line.
We won’t accept all submissions. Take a look above for what we’re looking for.
We want your voice in Community Voices.
O. Ricardo Pimentel is managing editor of Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service. Reach him at email@example.com