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Editorial writers expand their horizons.

When Arkansas' governor as elected president of the United States in 1992, everyone - including the president-elect of the world's sole superpower, it seemed - expected that the new Clinton administration would focus almost exclusively on domestic issues. Sure enough, President Clinton started out by launching a massive reform initiative on health care, enlisting his wife. Hillary, to lead it. (Seems like a long time ago, doesn't it?) At any rate, journalists - including those in the opinion realm - were no different, with many editorial writers taking up public journalism projects and others deciding to focus all their attention on issues close to home. The mantra was "local, local, local."

But the world doesn't always cooperate with the plans and time lines of presidents, let alone journalists. Clinton had to deal with Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, and Bosnia. He brokered deals in the Middle East and Northern Ireland. He ordered bombing in Iraq and Kosovo. And those were just a few of the hot spots. Despite his wonkish domestic agenda - and, later, his domestic scandal - foreign news cried out for the attention of the president. In turn, his actions called for the informed analysis and the passionate opinion writing of the nation's editorialists and columnists. And that required expertise, analysis - and compelling writing.

Where to get them? Those requirements are no easy task for the best-prepared of editorial writers to master. Foreign affairs have a way of seeming, well, foreign. Especially to writers who, whether because of budget constraints or a dearth of colleagues, are essentially chained to their desks.

Luckily, NCEW didn't entirely heed the "local, local, local" cry. Indeed, during the past few years the organization has expanded programs designed to help editorial writers master foreign issues, whether through firsthand experiences in other countries or through an expanded menu of short briefings back home. Last year, Foreign Affairs Committee chair Jim Boyd of Minneapolis's Star Tribune secured extra funding to help make these offerings available to those who otherwise couldn't afford them. Now you need only to sign up.

If you haven't experienced NCEW's briefings or trips, I hope you'll find a way to do so this year. We've already held briefings at the State Department and United Nations, and - as you can read in Pat Widder's report in this issue - conducted a grueling and fascinating trip to three cities in Russia. A panel at NCEW's convention in Denver will explore ways to make foreign-affairs writing come alive.

But the convention does not mark the end of the year. In keeping with our attempt to support members with especially limited time and/or budgets, we're planning a one-week trip to Cuba in early 2000, and we're keeping the costs down. The trip's leader, Bob Kittle of The San Diego Union-Tribune, has been working on it for months, so do think about joining him.

I toured China in 1987 and several Eastern European countries in 1990 with NCEW. The interviews, interactions, and images of those trips led not only to a vivid package of editorials and columns at the time, but also to a lasting grasp of those nation's issues. Believe me, these are life-altering experiences.

There is nothing quite like being there, but if you really can't go, please consider two experiences that offer a close second. Last winter's U.N. briefing was so successful that another has been scheduled for November 4-5. And the Knight Center at the University of Maryland will be offering a seminar for editorial writers the first week of December; it also will focus on foreign affairs. Judging from past seminars, it promises to be balanced, comprehensive and enlightening.

This is for you. So partake. Please!
COPYRIGHT 1999 National Conference of Editorial Writers
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Author:Albright, Susan
Publication:The Masthead
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 1999
Previous Article:Finding local voices for op-ed balance.
Next Article:In search of the editorial pleasure principle.

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