A beautiful partnership: NCEW and Knight Center mark twenty-fifth editorial writing seminar.
The creator: Reese Cleghorn, former NCEW president (1980). In 1981, Cleghorn left the editorial page offices of the Detroit Free Press, his last stop in a distinguished thirty year career in newspaper journalism, to become dean of the University of Maryland College of Journalism. Among his first feats in his equally distinguished academic career was to establish an annual December seminar on topical issues for editorial writers. It was coordinated with NCEW's winter board meeting, and it fit like a glove with his philosophy that a journalist's mission is to find the truth and disseminate it.
Today--twenty- five years later--the seminar has become a staple among NCEW's partnerships. The free two-and a-half-day sessions in College Park, Maryland, continue the legacy Cleghorn initiated: Opinion writers and editors explore national and international issues in depth and from different perspectives. They ask informed experts challenging questions and network among one another on key events. They leave with a solid foundation of knowledge that produces not just a single editorial or column but also lasting information that influences writing and editorial decisions for years.
The first years (1982-1990) were supported by the Gannett Foundation and covered issues like disarmament, the transition of the presidency, U.S./Soviet relations, and healthcare. They were, as former NCEW president John Taylor (2003) put it, "good from the beginning." Under sponsorship of The Freedom Forum (1991-1992), editorials writers investigated foreign affairs and job growth.
Under the leadership of the Knight Center, beginning in 1993, "fellows" have examined issues like immigration, civil liberties, fighting terrorism, energy policy, and reinventing government. As former NCEW president Susan Albright (1999) once noted, these seminars are "balanced, comprehensive, and enlightening" And as former NCEW president Morgan McGinley (1998) said, they provide a "rigorous intellectual engagement." Lynnell Burkett, NCEW president in 2004, agreed, calling it "a uniformly terrific experience" and complimented the Knight Center for working closely with NCEW in setting up a wide range of programs.
Seminars included trips to Annapolis, the Executive Office Building, the Pentagon, the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Press Club. And they provide speakers like J. William Fulbright, Al Gore, Anthony Lake, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Bolton.
Cleghorn personally led the program until 1992, then turned over the duties to the Knight Center's founding director Howard Bray in 1993. In 1999, when Bray retired, current director Carol Horner took on the challenge. Homer and her very able staff--including Peggy DeBona, Laura Abramson, and Christina Tine--provide bags full of research material and keep fellows informed with post-seminar e-mails.
Now retired as journalism dean, Cleghorn continues to teach at the U-Maryland at College Park. As has been his habit in recent years, Cleghorn joined the Knight fellows for the first evening's dinner at the most recent December seminar. But the December 6 dinner had a special highlight: A salute to the twenty-fifth anniversary of Cleghorn's brainchild and to the University of Maryland's ongoing partnership with NCEW.
In 2007, President George W. Bush is in his second term with a Democratic Congress, the United States is engaged in a troublesome war in Iraq, the nation's profile is changing, and the world is still dealing with the repercussions of the September 11, 2001, terrorists' attacks. NCEW has much to gain from a continued informative relationship with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism.
Kay Semion, NCEW past president, is associate editor of the editorial pages at the Daytona Beach News-Journal. She has attended seven editorial-writers seminars. E-mail: kay.semion@ newsjrnl.com