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Welcome to The Forum!

Here’s a road map to the new section

Good morning, and welcome to The Forum!

What you’re reading is the Monitor’s new opinion section, and I want to give you a quick tour.

The idea here is to create a vibrant, provocative, interactive, (nearly) daily new section that will provide a place for readers in Central New Hampshire to exchange opinions on the issues of the day. If you liked our Sunday Viewpoints section – a staple for the past 21 years – we’re hoping this will appeal to you even more.

This will not generally be the place to read what Washington pundits think about President Obama. Rather, it will be a place to hear what your neighbors – experts and regular folks alike – have to say about civic affairs on the local and state level. Journalists love politics, of course, but we’re hoping The Forum will reach far beyond the State House and address issues of culture, economics, health care, environmental issues, family life and more.

We have set aside generous space in the newspaper – a full color page (at least), five times a week, Wednesday through Sunday, which will give our artists, designers and photographers a large canvas on which to show off their considerable talents.

So, what’s in store?

This morning’s edition gives you a small taste of what we have in mind. The centerpiece is a collection of short essays from local teachers. We asked them to tell us about the most interesting new thing they’re trying in the classroom this year. As you can see, there’s real creativity percolating in Concord public schools and at Bishop Brady.

In coming days, we’ll roll out a number of other features that will likely become regulars:

∎ The Great Debate – a collection of essays that tackle a single topic from a variety of angles. First up: three takes on the promise

and limits of online education at the college level. We’ll hear from educators at Dartmouth, Southern New Hampshire University and the state community college system.

∎ The Big Picture – a photo essay that asks readers to think hard about an issue in the news. First up: a close look at the wind farm in Groton, as captured by photographer Alexander Cohn.

∎ The Big Idea – a look at a provocative proposal from elsewhere that might just be worth thinking about here. Among our early examples: not just one big idea but a dozen – on homelessness – turned into a beautiful graphic by longtime Monitor artist Charlotte Thibault.

∎ This Versus That – a feature that, with luck, will bring some humor to the page. First up: BearCat (the armored vehicle coveted by the Concord police) versus bearcat (the obscure South Asian critter).

∎ Hot Topic – an oldie but goodie. The Monitor publishes lots of letters to the editor. Occasionally a single topic dominates the day – or the week. We’ll gather those into big collections to give readers a broad sense of what their neighbors have to say on the Northern Pass energy project, casino gambling and more.

∎ In Her (or His) Own Words. Sometimes a speech is worth a quote or two in a news story, but sometimes it’s worth publishing an excerpt in long form. One early example: We’ve received permission to publish excerpts from a new collection of speeches and essays by William Oates, rector of St. Paul’s School during the 1970s. He describes the beginning of coeducation, his decision to relax the school dress code and more.

∎ Birch and Finch. Longtime Monitor political cartoonist Mike Marland will be trying something new on the Saturday Forum page: a full-color comic strip that chronicles the adventures of two state legislators – one conservative, one liberal – who also happen to be father and daughter.

Some things won’t change. The Sunday page will still be home to some Monitor stalwarts: the Capital Beat political column and weekly columnists Katy Burns and Grant Bosse. We also intend to maintain our board of contributors: about a dozen local writers whose work appears mostly in the opinion pages of the Monitor. (Later this month, we’ll put out a call for some new blood on the board – stay tuned.)

To make this work, of course, we’ll need your feedback. Many Forum features will be a goad to further conversation – and we hope you’ll take us up on it. Contributions, as always, can be sent to letters@cmonitor.com or via regular mail to me at Felice Belman, Concord Monitor, PO Box 1177, Concord 03302-1177. Our fax number is 603-224-8120.

As daily newspapers across the country are rethinking everything they do, some have opted to trim their opinion pages in favor of other content. We’re betting on the opposite: that the Monitor’s already engaged readership will enjoy a new forum for civil debate on the issues of greatest concern to our community and our state. Please make some time to read The Forum over the next few days, and then let us know what you think.

(Monitor Opinion Editor Felice Belman can be reached at
369-3370 or fbelman@
cmonitor.com.)

Sail's comments are sooooooooooo boring. When you have read one you have read them all.

Dear comment moderator, Bless you!

I no longer bother to respond to obvious trolling. Perhaps if we don't feed the trolls, the trolls will go away. But I agree with you - thank you, blessed moderator.

Oh I see now...its only in print. Ah well, could have made a great web version.

"As daily newspapers across the country are rethinking everything they do, some have opted to trim their opinion pages in favor of other content. We’re betting on the opposite:..." And that is a very wise move IMHO...opinion pages are the most read parts of the newspaper in general, is that correct????

Thanks, GWTW. The tricky part about general circulation papers (as opposed to specialty publications) is that everyone's favorite part is different. There are people still angry that we canceled the Prince Valiant comic strip many moons ago. But I do think Monitor readers really like the opinion pages. I often hear from readers that they start their mornings with the letters to the editors -- or, perhaps, right after the obits. And we seem to get far more unsolicited submissions than other papers of this size.

what about stop censoring conservatives comments?

We do not censor conservative comments. We do, however, filter for spam. In the last 24 hours, for instance, you've submitted more than 25 comments. We have posted at least 15 of them. We did not waste readers' time by posting comments like "liberals....sheeeeeesh!" and "another chapter from the liberal unpatriotic manefesto," since they were nearly identical to comments you submitted yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. We'll post 12 to 15 more of your comments in the next 24 hours. Make them count.

Hey Sail, I can vouch for the fact that they do not censor conservative comments. Your comments are in here every day. MY comments on the other hand ARE censored. And you wouldn't call me a "conservative" now would you? There, I just proved the opposite of what you said to be true. The Monitor censors the comments of non-conservatives.

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