Column: Wanted: Readers with feedback and time to spare

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 7, 2002

Everybody needs a little advice once in a while.

Monday, January 07, 2002

Everybody needs a little advice once in a while. If that weren’t true, Dear Abby and Ann Landers would be running out their tanks in Florida after long lives in obscurity, not still dishing out daily doses of folksy wisdom for gazillions of readers.

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Here at the Tribune we recognize that we’re not above a little advice here and there. That’s why, every year, we put together an advisory board made up of readers. We call it, not surprisingly, the reader advisory board.

I’m not as naive as I’ve been accused of being. I know that you, yes you, have at some point read this paper and asked one of the following questions, either to yourself or to anybody who happened to be within earshot at the time:

– &uot;What were they thinking?&uot;

– &uot;What the heck were they thinking?&uot;

– &uot;What in the world were they thinking?&uot;

– &uot;Why don’t they do so-and-so differently?&uot;

Once in a while, people who feel this way are motivated enough to pick up a phone or a pen and let me know what they think. I am convinced this happens about one in 10,000 times.

I need more feedback than that. In school, I used to get irritated if it took the teacher more than a day to grade a paper or test. I wanted to know how I did. Even today, I’ve been known to wander into my boss’s office under some false pretense, actually hoping to fish for compliments or criticism while I’m there. Don’t tell her, though.

That’s why I like having a reader advisory board. I coerce a bunch of nice people into coming here and telling me what they think. If they like something, great. If they don’t, I need to decide whether a change is in order. Either way, at least I know.

With the number of opinions out there, you’d think people would be banging on the door to get a spot on the board. But alas, people are much quicker to formulate opinions than they are to share them. I blame it on some kind of mass lack of self-confidence.

I have dug up seven or eight people to be on our 2002 board, but I’d like to get a couple more. The only qualifications are that you read the paper daily, have suggestions or other constructive feedback for us, and can attend a 7 a.m. meeting once a month. You don’t have to have any special expertise, although some of our members do. I want to find out what the average Joe and Jane Reader have to say as much as anything else.

If you are interested, give me a call. You could start seeing your opinions making a difference. Past boards have also very much seemed to appreciate having the chance to ask questions about how the paper works.

You can call me at 379-3433 or e-mail dylan.belden

A name for Sept. 11

Speaking of suggestions, I have one. At the risk of sounding trite, I think we have to come up with a better name for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. &uot;Nine-eleven&uot; just doesn’t cut it for me.

I mean, we don’t call Independence Day &uot;Seven-four.&uot; We don’t call Pearl Harbor Day &uot;Twelve-seven.&uot; These are days of national historical significance, not police communication codes. &uot;Ten-four, we’ve got a nine-eleven on Front Street.&uot; Please.

I think people who say &uot;nine-eleven&uot; think they are being clever because &uot;911&uot; is the phone number for emergencies. Well, I don’t like it. For one, I’ve always thought it should be &uot;nine-one-one,&uot; not &uot;nine-eleven.&uot; There’s no &uot;eleven&uot; button on my phone. And as a name for the events of Sept. 11, &uot;nine-one-one&uot; is no good either.

And while &uot;Sept. 11&uot; is better, it’s still so boring. In 50 years, are people going to still be referring to this event as &uot;Sept. 11?&uot; It’s so nonspecific; it captures none of the emotion or terrible imagery of that day. I guess we have the same problem with &uot;The Fourth of July&uot; – that’s why I like Independence Day better.

Usually, somebody who goes off on one of these rants has a better idea. Well, not me. I really can’t think of something much better than &uot;Sept. 11.&uot; Somebody suggested &uot;Twin Towers Day.&uot; That might be an improvement. If anybody out there has another suggestion, let me know. We’ve got to do something before &uot;nine-eleven&uot; becomes enshrined in history as the official phrasing.

Dylan Belden is the Tribune’s managing editor. His column appears Sundays. E-mail him at