For me, the Person of the Year issue is a highlight on CityBeat's editorial calendar. It's our annual high-profile pat on the back for those in Greater Cincinnati who are working hard -- usually under the mainstream media's radar -- to move our city forward.
We cover those kinds of people every week in CityBeat, but this issue gives us a chance to make a big deal out of one particular person or group that deserves extra recognition. This year's big deal consists of four individuals -- three staffers and a recently retired executive director -- at Community Shares, the fund-raising organization for progressive social and civic causes across the Tristate. Read Greg Flannery's profile story beginning on page 20.
And although the story spotlight shines on the four staff members, in our mind the recognition really extends to everyone involved with Community Shares: its volunteer board of directors, its 26 member organizations that receive funds, everyone those organizations help on a daily basis, everyone who works or volunteers to help at those organizations and everyone who supports Community Shares through its workplace payroll deduction campaigns.
When you think about it that way, tens of thousands of people in Greater Cincinnati are connecting with each other on a grassroots level through the efforts of Community Shares. Together they're making a difference by donating time and money to progressive environmental, economic, social justice, medical and artistic efforts -- all in what's labeled a conservative community.
Promoting independent thought, grassroots community building and open mindedness, Community Shares shares the values that launched CityBeat 11-plus years ago and have been found in each of our Person of the Year choices.
The only downside to this issue is that just one person or group of people is spotlighted. We narrowed our initial list of candidates down to four or five finalists, which seems to be the norm each year, but we had to make a choice.
So for all of you toiling away to make Cincinnati is a little more tolerant and a little more livable, we appreciate your work and your effort. Know that Community Shares represents you in this week's issue, because it takes all of us to build a better community, not just one person or group in the spotlight.
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For those interested in the inner workings of CityBeat -- beyond the reasons we select a Person of the Year -- this is a good time to share news. If you're not, go ahead and skip to Katie Laur's column on the next page.
We're excited that veteran journalist Kevin Osborne will be joining the paper as a staff writer at the end of March. He covered City Hall and local politics for The Cincinnati Post for a number of years before working for The Enquirer; last week we ran his first CityBeat story as a freelancer.
Kevin's arrival will enable us to do more investigative and in-depth work in the front of the paper than ever before. And we'll give him the space and the freedom to pursue stories he can sink his teeth into. It'll be a real win-win-win for CityBeat, Kevin and our readers.
His hiring is another step in our writing team's transition that began in November when Stephanie Dunlap left full-time employment. Fortunately she's continued to contribute stories as a freelancer, and just as fortunately Margo Pierce has done a great job filling Stephanie's chair and column inches. Look for Margo's cover story next week on sex addiction just in time for Valentine's Day.
Another new development we're excited about is Backpage.com, our foray into free community classifieds on the Web (citybeat.com). You can post job openings, apartments for rent, items to sell, personal ads and more -- all totally free and all monitored by the community of users.
Free is where it's at these days -- from craigslist to MySpace -- and Backpage.com has gotten very popular after just two months on our site. Try it out when you get a chance.
I suggest also taking a minute or 10 to fill out the Best of Cincinnati® readers poll ballot on the opposite page. It's your opportunity to tell us and CityBeat readers about the people, businesses and destination spots that contribute the most to Greater Cincinnati year in and year out.
Best of Cincinnati® is the biggest and arguably the best-read issue of CityBeat every year, so get involved and be heard.
OK, now the rest of you can get to Katie's column. Drop me a line if you want to talk about any of these changes, our Persons of the Year or anything else.
Contact john fox: jfox(a)citybeat.com