If you have opinions, we have the platform

Ever thought of being a newspaper columnist? Now is your opportunity.

The Olympian is looking for five people to join the Board of Contributors. The writing term begins in January and lasts one year.

The goal behind this stable of columnists is to bring varied, local voices to this page – people who are not shy about sharing their opinion and offering solutions to problems that face the nation, state or community.

We’re making some changes this year. We started the Board of Contributors in January 2004 with a dozen community columnists. They tackled issues ranging from medical malpractice reform to timber harvest practices. The columnists brought expertise in a number of arenas: higher education, health care, nonprofits, etc.

We’ve solicited new columnists every other year since.

Now it’s time to give additional residents an opportunity to form the Board of Contributors. But rather than having 10 columnists write once every 10 weeks for two years, we’ve shrunk the number of writers to five and will ask them to make a one-year commitment. We believe the increased frequency will help readers become more familiar with the columnists and create a stronger bond between readers and columnists.

The Olympian is looking for individuals from the community who represent key interests in South Sound areas such as education, health care, business, spiritual life, the environment, state and local government. We’d be happy to receive applications from a neighborhood activist, a student, a homemaker – people from all walks of life who add to the richness and diversity of the South Sound community.

The five contributors will take turns writing a column that appears on Wednesday’s opinion page. The online version reaches far beyond South Sound. Columnists marvel at the comments they receive from people living on the East Coast and, at times, in foreign countries. A column by one panelist was picked up on several blogs and generated more than 30,000 page views.

We are looking for conservative voices and liberal voices and those in the middle, too. The Board of Contributors should be as diverse as the South Sound community this newspaper serves.

Today, we are inviting self-nominations for the Board of Contributors.

In your self-nomination letter, provide information about your ethnic and educational background, along with information on similar writing assignments you might have done. Tell us why you want to be a columnist, your area of expertise and what you would bring to the position in terms of qualifications, experience and political philosophy.

Provide two writing samples, too. You might find it’s not as easy as it sounds. Having an opinion is one thing. Writing a column backed by solid research and written with flair is challenging work. Write two, 600-word sample columns on a current topic – preferably local – and include those columns with your self-nomination letter.

Send your application to: Board of Contributors, The Olympian, P.O. Box 407, Olympia, WA 98507. Our fax number is 360-357-0202, and the e-mail address is news@theolympian.com.

The deadline for columnist applications is 5 p.m. Dec. 4.

We look forward to hearing from you.