By Jennifer Neutel
Editor, publisher and editorial page editor need to be on same page: James Lawrence
The Democrat and Chronicle’s editorial page editor James Lawrence says the entire Unite Rochester effort is a “huge opportunity” for the newspaper to create change.Starting his journalism career in the 1970s, Lawrence says similar to a lot of baby boomers he was part of a generation that wanted to change the world but he’s not sure that happened.
Now he is part of Unite Rochester, an effort led by the Rochester, N.Y. newspaper to raise awareness about racial issues and engage residents in community-wide productive conversations about race.
“This is a huge opportunity given the fact that the newspaper is heavily invested in this project from the publisher to the editor. It is a terrific opportunity to really push for the kind of change that I think everybody recognizes is needed,” he says.
Having been in his role for more than 21 years, Lawrence says there’s been an intent to deal with these issues but having the entire newspaper — not just the editorial page — push forward on a single focus is gratifying.
“I want to see more change that is really substantial, lasting and systemic and not just superficial.”
Lawrence says Unite Rochester can be a model, as what they are trying to accomplish can be adapted elsewhere around the country.
The newspaper’s editor, publisher and editorial page editor all have to be on the same page and committed for the long-term, Lawrence says. Engaging leaders in the community is also key.
“If the community sees the leadership really pushing ahead then they will follow. I think that’s the same thing in terms of newspapers,” he says. “(If) they see the editor, publisher, editorial page all in sync and that the project is a priority then it will stand a better chance of being successful.”
A June 29 six-page Unite Rochester progress report written by the editorial page staff was a newspaper-wide effort, Lawrence says. From the copy desk to photographers to the digital department “everybody was behind us.”
“That’s what it will take to be impactful; we can’t be viewed as the editorial board’s project or the news side project but the community should see that it’s the newspaper pushing and everybody is on the same page.”
— Unite Rochester is one of three pilot sites participating in the ASNE/Journalism That Matters partnership exploring how and why news organizations are engaging with their communities. This story is written by Axiom News.
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