Why does the Star-Telegram have an Editorial Board? A look at our Opinion coverage

·4 min read

Why would a news operation that works so hard to be fair and avoid taking sides in its coverage want a dedicated team of people, well, taking a side?

It’s a fair question. I hope to answer it as part of the Star-Telegram’s focus this month on transparency in what we do and how and why we do it. Let me share with you some facts about the Editorial Board and our Opinion operation.

Our goal is to provide a community forum to air debate on all sides and provide thought leadership about issues that affect Fort Worth. When we publish an editorial, it reflects the opinions of our five-member Editorial Board. But it’s more than just what’s in our heads and hearts.

We research issues and consider all the arguments. We meet with leaders and subject-matter experts, rather than just relying on our own thoughts. And we discuss and debate among ourselves because we want our reasoning in defense of our positions to encompass a range of viewpoints.

In more than two years on the job, I’ve received criticism that our board is hopelessly liberal and knee-jerk conservative. We aim for a pretty moderate record, trying to reflect a Democratic city in a Republican county. But what matters more than ideology are the values we try to uphold: transparency and accountability in government; fiscal responsibility; defense of democracy and civil rights; and fairness and civility in our discourse.

Readers occasionally chide us for “telling me what to think.” But that’s not really our goal. If we persuade people to our positions, great. What really matters is that we’re advancing the conversation and advocating for these principles.

We focus locally in what we write, believing that our expertise is best applied to the concerns facing Fort Worth and North Texas. There are plenty of people weighing in on the Biden administration and Congress. Occasionally, we do too, but we can best serve our readers by taking up local issues.

In our print editions, of course, we use syndicated columnists to provide perspective on these issues we’re not tackling. We aim to provide a broad spectrum of opinions. And while some days, it may seem as if the page leans left, while on other days, it tilts right, we take care to ensure that overall, you’re getting a balanced diet.

If you want an avalanche of hot takes on any issue in the news, you can find it on the internet without us pointing it out.

It’s important to note that the news reporters whose stories you’re reading are a separate operation. They do not have an input in what the Editorial Board writes or the positions it takes. And the Editorial Board isn’t involved in news coverage. News reporters will often sit in on meetings we have with newsmakers and write stories about what those people say, if merited. But they don’t participate in the editorial deliberations. As I often joke to guests meeting with our board: “Don’t blame the reporter for what we end up writing.”

Our Editorial Board members bring a range of views and life experience to their work. But we recognize that we have blind spots, especially in such a large, diverse community. So, we recently created a Community Advisory Board to meet with us periodically and offer their perspective.

One important function of that group is pointing out important or compelling topics in their communities and lives that we might not be discussing (or discussing enough). We plan to rotate membership of the advisory board periodically to capture a wide range of our readership.

While our Editorial Board represents the voice of the institution, several of us write individually as columnists. If you see a person’s own name and picture on an opinion piece, that’s a personal column and opinion. But as we do with editorials, we aim to bring reporting and research to each column and formulate the best possible position based on the facts.

We always appreciate hearing our readers’ with feedback or questions. You can email me anytime about any Opinion issue at rrusak@star-telegram.com. And we welcome Letters to the Editor expressing your views. We ask that you limit those to 150 words so more people can have a say, and we typically edit letters for style, length and clarity. Email your letters to letters@star-telegram.com.

I’m grateful for you, our readers, especially those of you who subscribe. We depend on you, and we’re please that you’ve decided to invest in being better informed and having a community watchdog on the job.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting