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Foundation works to improve craft of editorial writing.

Elbert Garcia is a young New Yorker, working for a small weekly community newspaper where he does everything.

But after a tantalizing few days at the NCEW Foundation-sponsored Minority Writers Seminar, he said he felt a pull toward the opinion side of the shop.

"I never thought of editorial writing as being a very creative form of writing," says Garcia, who works for the Manhattan Times. "But it is. The best thing was going to the seminar and really focusing on crafting editorials.

"Thinking about the different ways you could do that was eye-opening."

Garcia was among sixteen journalists who participated in the seminar April 29 to May 2 in Nashville. The annual event is one of several missions of the National Conference of Editorial Writers Foundation. The Foundation has a multi-pronged mission to support and promote editorial writing, whether it's those actively practicing the craft or those, like Garcia, considering a career.

The Foundation puts on the Minority Writers Seminar in conjunction with the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University. Seminar participants provide only their transportation to and from the seminar, which is open to minority journalists interested in opinion writing of those who have been writing opinion for two years or less.

Former Foundation president Tommy Denton noted that about twenty-five percent of participants in the Minority Writers Seminar become editorial writers.

Established in 1981, the Foundation also supports those already practicing the craft of editorial writing, through its quarterly publication of The Masthead magazine, foreign travel trips, and foreign travel and State Department briefings. The NCEW Foundation board is committed to providing some financial support for regional conferences geared specifically for editorial writers.

Additionally, the organization honors people in the professional and academic world who have helped to strengthen or advance the editorial writing profession. The Ida B. Wells Award, which is co-sponsored by the National Association of Black Journalists, honors a publisher who provides distinguished leadership in encouraging employment opportunities to minority journalists. The Barry Bingham Sr. Fellowship is presented to a journalism educator committed to helping prepare minority students for successful careers in journalism.

The Foundation even reaches back into school classrooms to try to infuse young journalists with a goal of becoming an editorial writer.

With the Foundation's help, Fred Fiske, chair of NCEW's Journalism Education Committee, has been able to expand the organization's connections to student editorial writers.

NCEW has co-sponsored about twenty workshops for college commentary editors and writers around the country. NCEW underwrites the cost of the lunch for each workshop--a valuable contribution when you're trying to attract poor students. The sponsoring universities each get a copy of NCEW's Beyond Argument primer on the craft.

It's a way to get young journalists thinking about working toward a career on the opinion side of the shop.

For Garcia, the experience at the seminar has got him thinking about such a move. "It was just great to be able to get advice from people whose job I'd like to have some day," he said.

Kate Riley, an associate Masthead editor and NCEW board member, is an editorial writer for The Seattle Times. E-mail kriley@seattletimes.com
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Author:Riley, Kate
Publication:The Masthead
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2004
Words:524
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