Editorials that matter: statewide editorial thrashing, led by NCEW members, gets results at New York legislature.
With New York New York, state, United States
New York, Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of State's government fast approaching its twenty-first year without a timely state budget, it seemed to NCEW NCEW National Conference of Editorial Writers board member Peter Kohler and former president Fred Fiske to be an appropriate time for a legislative seminar for editorial writers who opine about state issues. The state's governmental processes had, after all, just been labeled as dysfunctional in a report by the respected Brennan Center of the New York University New York University, mainly in New York City; coeducational; chartered 1831, opened 1832 as the Univ. of the City of New York, renamed 1896. It comprises 13 schools and colleges, maintaining 4 main centers (including the Medical Center) in the city, as well as the Law School.
But participants in the seminar, scheduled ten days after the start of the state's fiscal year, were in for a surprise: The governor and legislature were able to resolve their differences and agree on a spending plan in time to meet the constitutional deadline--for the first time in two decades.
According to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. several government observers who spoke to the group, that outcome was in large measure a tribute to the state's cadre of editorial writers, who had mounted so much pressure on the lawmakers that they had little choice but to respond.
"Because of the public thrashing they were getting, the legislators felt they had to do something," said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group The New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) is a student activism and training organization based in New York City. It has existed since 1973 . Its current executive director is Rebecca Weber and its founding director was Donald K. Ross. . Lise Bang-Jensen Lise Bang-Jensen was the reporter and producer of public affairs television program Inside Albany. On December 12, 2006 it was announced that it would end its run on December 31, 2006.  of public television's "Inside Albany" program offered her congratulations to the editorial writers: "I think you got under their skin" she said. Lawmakers are "unbelievably sensitive to anything written about them," said Bob Ward of the business-oriented Public Policy Institute. But, Horner added, "It's not editorials alone, but editorials that point out something so striking and outrageous that it can't be ignored."
But for all the plaudits, some observers worried that news organizations were being too credulous cred·u·lous
1. Disposed to believe too readily; gullible.
2. Arising from or characterized by credulity. See Usage Note at credible. about the budget success. There was, they said, so much more to be done. "Don't be afraid to support a constitutional convention" to make real change in the workings of state government, Ward told the assembled sixteen editorial writers and editors, while other speakers offered their lists of needed changes in the legislative process.
The seminar was put together by an ad hoc For this purpose. Meaning "to this" in Latin, it refers to dealing with special situations as they occur rather than functions that are repeated on a regular basis. See ad hoc query and ad hoc mode. group of NCEW members from several papers across the state, assisted by Sherid Virnig from NCEW headquarters. Sessions were spread over a day and a half and were generously hosted by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government is a public policy research institute, or think tank, that conducts studies and other projects relating to state and local government in the United States, American federalism, public management and finance, the implementation of . They began on a Sunday afternoon with two panels, one giving an "Albany Reporters' Eye View," and the other providing critical perspectives of legislative observers with a variety of policy and political perspectives.
Monday's day-long session kicked off with a discussion of the aggressive editorial campaign for reform mounted by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle The Democrat and Chronicle is the most widely circulated daily newspaper in the greater Rochester, New York area. Located at 55 Exchange Boulevard in downtown Rochester, the Democrat and Chronicle operates under the ownership of Gannett. . It also drew visits by legislative leaders from both houses and both major parties, as well as from governor George Pataki.
In response to the legislature's budgetary dilatoriness dil·a·to·ry
1. Intended to delay.
2. Tending to postpone or delay: dilatory in his work habits. See Synonyms at slow. , Rochester's Jim Lawrence pointed out, his paper and at least two other New York newspapers withheld endorsements of legislative candidates before the previous statewide election. At his paper, "the community roared with approvalS' Lawrence said, with a deluge of letters to the editor. The editorial page followed up by printing a coupon for readers who supported reform to fill out and return. The paper received about twenty-five hundred, and sent copies to lawmakers and the governor. Then it convened an editorial board meeting in Albany to further demonstrate its commitment to spurring change. The paper also put clickable clickable adj (COMPUT) → cliqueable
clickable adj → cliccabile e-mail links to lawmakers on its website, to assist citizens in making their opinions known.
At the final Monday session, Jeremy Creelan, the Brennan Center analyst who authored the report branding state governmental processes as broken, played down the importance of the timely state budget and urged editorialists to apply the momentum they had generated on the issue to broader matters of governance. "Editorials are the single father of reform" he said, and encouraged state papers to work together to keep the public's focus on specific positive changes.
The opinion writers attending the sessions had differing degrees of background on the issues discussed, but most seemed to share the sense that the sessions more than met their expectations and needs. As Theresa Keegan told her editor, John Penney, on returning to work at the Poughkeepsie Journal, "It was like NCEW created it for me."
Which is just what session organizers had intended.
Phineas Fiske is a retired senior editorial writer for Newsday. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org