Future of Ashland: A new way of reporting


Leah Burtscher

Citizens discuss in small groups what they think is lacking in Ashland.

Leah Burtscher

On Jan. 27, the Ashland YMCA housed a new type of community hearing, put on by the Richland and Ashland Source.

Future of Ashland was an event held and designed for journalists to hear out the public in a new way. The event was hosted by editor and coordinator, Doug Oplinger, journalist from the Ashland Source and Richland Source.

The community-wide event was a town hall meeting, but with a new twist: for journalists to hear the voices and opinions of average, everyday members of the community.

The idea by having a large group discussion is that people have a more welcoming environment and have a less pressuring, more open discussion.

When a reporter is interviewing, it is most often on a one-on-one basis. This modern way of interviewing citizens allows people to voice their opinions by having a discussion with each other.

The session ran as one big group discussion. As people walk in the room, they are greeted by Source journalists and given name tags with stickers specifying whether they agree to having their picture taken. People then choose a seat at a small table where they are put into small groups.

The discussion begins with a prompt: what makes a happy community. People write down their response to the prompt, discuss their answers and the discussion opens up to the entire room. Answers are written down on a white board displayed in the front of the room.

Leah Burtscher
Local residents participate in group wide discussion on improving their community.

This process went on for a couple rounds as people were encouraged to switch up their table groupings after each prompt. At the end of the session, the room was tasked to come up with a “plan” to take steps on what will make the community better.

The unique aspect behind the idea is that everything said during the meeting is on the record but is anonymous unless given permission.

The meeting had a large turnout with a constant lively discussion on what could be done to improve the community of Ashland. A wide demographic from residents of 60 plus years, to middle aged married couples, to young 20-year-olds trying to make a home, all came to crack down on improving their town. Mayor Matt Miller was in attendance.

One issue addressed during the meeting was third shift accessibility, specifically for child care. One resident brought up how one of the town’s biggest concerns should be child care and providing a proper living area for growing children and families. According to the residents, it is incredibly hard for parents to provide care for their kids when working a third shift due to the lack of services available.

Leah Burtscher
Ashland Source reporter displays suggestions for creating a happier community.

“One of Ashland’s biggest issues is child and foster care, we need to prioritize our children,” one concerned citizen said.

Another hot topic was the issue with ex-felons finding work after being released.

“It is almost as if they have a scarlet letter placed on their back,” another Ashland resident said.

Many other topics of issue came up, including keeping college students here after graduation, providing entertainment and shopping, living a non-faith based lifestyle in a faith-based town, providing proper wages and available, affordable health care.

“The key to a successful community is unity,” a vocal citizen said.

The goal behind this system of reporting is to not only to listen to the bad but listen on how the bad can be fixed.