RPD: Hitting A High Note For Civic Discourse

99th in a 2022 Series*

CLEVELAND, MISS. — The Mississippi Delta is home to the American Blues. It’s now also the starting point for a North American initiative to transform local newspapers into THE Community Forum. Congratulations to Publisher Scott Coopwood of The Bolivar Bullet who moderated last night’s (June 8) first in a series of civil, civic conversations on issues of importance throughout the state of Mississippi. Coopwood (below, left) guided a panel of eight tourism advocates during an hour-plus discussion on ways the Mississippi Delta could “win more tourism.” After detailing the Delta’s strengths as a tourist attraction, the speakers hit on several opportunities to pursue, including marketing that pitches the region while detailing individual attractions. Bigger goals like improved housing, labor training, and schools were mentioned as well.

The Community Forum was held in the soundstage auditorium of the Grammy Museum Mississippi in Cleveland, adjacent to the campus of Delta State University. About 50 interested readers (below) attended. (A raging thunderstorm might have caused some to stay home.)

The statewide initiative is sponsored by the Mississippi Humanities Council, which is applying a grant from the Mellon Foundation. (Exploring the role of local media in an engaged democracy is an important issue.) Also, the other sponsor is the Mississippi Press Association, whose executive director, Layne Bruce (below), explained the mission of the Community Forum project during introductory comments. Mississippi Press is the first trade association to collaborate with The Relevance Project in working with local newspapers to launch Community Forums in an organized way. (The Relevance Project is sponsored by Newspaper Association Managers and partly with a grant from the SNPA Foundation.)

It would not be the Delta without a musical performance, and the great-nephew of American Blues legend Muddy Waters, Keith Johnson (below), played two songs to close out the night. “Come to Mississippi: Birthplace of the Blues” was a fitting message to a night of civic engagement, led by a publisher who saw the benefits in becoming THE Community Forum.

Thanks to the Community Forum experience, at least one local newspaper wasn’t singing the blues about the future. It was doing something positive about it.

-Tom Silvestri, Executive Director, The Relevance Project

*ABOUT THE SERIES: Our goal is to share a Relevant Point of the Day (RPD) each weekday throughout 2022. Our target is at least 222. Thank you for supporting The Relevance Project. Your success is our focus.

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