Tuesday marked the first meeting of our new editorial board, which includes five local citizens, myself and managing editor Heather Rainone.
About 15 people expressed interest in joining our conversations on the local editorials that will appear on the left side of this page, with most appearing on Sundays.
The new citizen board members include:
-- Paul Pinke, a retired business executive from Franklin Township.
-- Jim Smith, a businessman from Kent.
-- Tiffany Jones, who works in Ravenna and lives in Kent.
-- Donna Lambert, a former Kent State professor living near Rootstown.
-- Gene Parker, a retiree living in Kent.
Our conversation focused mostly on the ongoing opiate addiction crisis based on an article I noticed regarding the state budget currently being debated at the Statehouse. Not surprisingly, most of us knew someone or knew of someone battling addiction, a point that was further reinforced a short time later at Tuesday's Kent Rotary meeting.
Serving as a last-minute fill-in speaker, Portage County Common Pleas Judge Becky Doherty delivered a passionate address on how the addiction crisis is creating a record number of criminal cases and stress on the local criminal justice system. Both she and fellow Common Pleas Judge Laurie Pittman expect to handle more than 600 criminal cases this year, not to mention the other civil cases.
She described the county's newly certified drug court as the bright spot in her week as she meets every Thursday with 13 people working diligently to overcome their addictions during an intensive 16-month program.
If the 13 succeed in the program, their charges can be resolved without additional punishment.
Thus, our editorial today focuses on whether Ohio is doing enough to fight this crisis.
Including citizens on the editorial board broadens our perspective on key local issues facing Portage County and its residents, which will be our major focus for Sunday editorials. It helps ensure we're connected to the community and not just randomly opining on issues. We also believe we can have the greatest impact on local or state issues.
GOOD NEWS: Our early efforts to improve our content and reporting appear to be paying off. May marked the best month in the history of our website in terms of page views, and June is off to a great start.
We're trying to focus more on how the news impacts our readers by asking reporters to approach their fact gathering with impact in mind. For example, for the recent story on University Hospitals opening a new stand-alone emergency room in Kent, we focused on how it will reduce the time it takes paramedics to get patients to the ER.
We're also working on improving our online and social media presence, with our new web site project now actively underway.
Our team will be quite busy in the coming weeks preparing for the transition.
MORE GOOD NEWS: I'm happy to report my family now officially resides in Portage County, with the moving truck dropping off our belongings and countless boxes about 10 days ago. We found a great home on the west side of Kent not too far from our office, giving me the shortest commute I've ever enjoyed.
Michael Shearer is General Manager and Editor of the Record-Courier. He can be reached at 330-298-2023, firstname.lastname@example.org and @MichaelJShearer on Twitter.
Perhaps the RC Editors can look into the ongoing drug activity/sales that's been happening at a house for years. It's owned by a judge; an elected public servant. Ask of few questions. The Portage County Drug Task Force has many files. That's fact gathering that connects to the community and could impact and eliminate a source of drug activity in Portage County. It's obvious that this landlord cares little about who rents their property