According to Fred Hiatt, editorial page editor for The Washington Post, diversity has long been a “watchword” for the newspaper industry. But the Post is putting their words into action with its recently launched Voices Across America, a platform that showcases writers from across the country “who are uniquely positioned to provide on-the-ground points of view.”
Voices Across America, which has a dedicated page on the Post website (washingtonpost.com/opinions/voices-across-america), launched on June 1. It features contributing columnists based across the country like Lizette Alvarez in Miami, Fla. and Bill Whalen in Palo Alto, Calif. It also hosts Post Opinion columnists, such as Gary Abernathy based in Cincinnati, Ohio, and David Von Drehle in Kansas City, Mo. The platform is still looking for contributing writers and new columnists. Additionally, it will showcase op-eds and editorials.
When the Post thinks about diversity, they consider race, nationality, gender, experience, ideology, and geography, said Hiatt.
“We are very committed to having an opinion section that represents a true spectrum of views,” he said. “We are an independent newspaper, which means—to me—that we don’t belong to any team. We are loyal to the idea of civil, passionate debate about issues that are really important to people.”
For this new platform, the Post has reached out to writers with reporting experience and who can respond engagingly to events that take place in their region, Hiatt explained. Now that the platform has officially launched, Hiatt hopes that more writers will reach out to the Post.
Hiatt said that a number of columns have received positive responses including a piece by Micheline Maynard, a journalist and author located in Detroit, who wrote about how many restaurant workers are not going back to work after the pandemic. It was a great example of a piece that had some focus on her hometown but held a lot of relevance for people across the country, Hiatt explained.
Although Voices Across America aims to be a place for civil debate, Hiatt does not believe it will solve opposition in the country.
“People in our profession should be pretty humble about thinking we’re going to solve any particular problem,” he said. “I don’t think Voices Across America can solve polarization or fix American democracy, but I think we can contribute to a countervailing force to the polarization and the name calling.”
Shortly after the launch of Voices Across America, the Post also introduced a podcast hosted every Friday by opinion columnist James Hohmann, where he interviews the author of one of the week’s most compelling or most unexpected guest columns from Post Opinions.
“It gives a little bit a transparency,” Hiatt said. “It’s a way of hearing there’s a human being behind the view that you may or may not disagree with.