Finding Your Voice

In an effort to better engage audiences, the Boston Globe’s opinion section has launched a new platform for New England residents to share their opinions through short documentaries called Opinion Reel.

The Globe’s digital opinion producer Nicole Hernandez and Ellen Clegg, interim editor of the editorial page, came up with the idea when they wanted to promote their audiences’ voice and expand coverage.

“I’ve gotten a little discouraged because a lot of news outlets today, in general, don’t involve the community—it’s not just politicians and business leaders,” said Hernandez. “Opinion is where we can work with the community, and they can have a voice.”

Joanna Weiss, assistant managing editor of the editorial page, is in charge of outreach for Opinion Reel. She said since Boston is a hub for documentary filmmaking, the content was already there, and all the Globe had to do was act as an avenue for the public to voice concerns.

“We’re basically the host to a big, sprawling, open conversation. And the more expansive and surprising and compelling the conversation is, the more people will take part—and the more ideas will be shared,” Weiss said.

In order to reach the community, Weiss began by reaching out to film schools, professional filmmakers and film festivals in New England, but the paper also run ads to market the platform to their general readership audience.

Weiss said Opinion Reel also opens up the possibility of finding regular contributors for the Globe opinion section and to gain story ideas for other departments.

However, Weiss said the greatest challenge she’s faced so far has been reaching amateur filmmakers and getting readers without a background in film to participate. Still, she’s been amazed by the range of voices and issues submitted so far.

“We’ve been hearing from young people, senior citizens, people with young families, and people from every demographic group. Some high schools and community arts organizations are supporting incredible work,” she said. “A lot of the submissions are technically beautiful and emotionally wrenching; I was screening one the other day that literally made me weep.”

Opinion Reel is accepting documentaries on a rolling basis with no official end to the program. Periodically, the films will be published at bostonglobe.com/opinionreel and live screenings will take place at various film festivals, including GlobeDocs in October.

“Film is a powerful medium, and it’s the way many people choose to express themselves. We think it’s our obligation—and our privilege—to host the broadest, most dynamic conversation that we can,” Weiss said.

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