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Lead the budget fight with dollars and sense.

BEAN-COUNTERS, beware. NCEW is on the way.

It's time to make the case for the dollars-and-cents value of opinion writing.

An undernourished economy has done more to the media than lop off jobs and slash travel budgets. It has placed new emphasis on financial accountability.

Opinion writers who once relied on noble reasoning to garner corporate support (the soul of the paper, and all that sort of thing) too often find themselves the poor relations of the media family.

That's where NCEW comes into play.

We are the only journalism organization with the size and stature to make the readership/listenership case for opinion writing. NCEW must become a vibrant contributor to the ongoing industry debate among editors, publishers, and broadcasters over how to attract and retain readers and listeners. The bottom line, happily, is that opinion writing sells.

Statistics tell the story. When The Miami Herald invited readers to call its audiotext line for a recitation of editorial endorsements, they responded in droves.

You can even wax philosophical about the practicality of investing in opinion writing. The Kettering Foundation of Dayton, Ohio, has studied the role of the media in developing a sense of community, a feeling that civic involvement is worthwhile. Opinion writing is key to meeting that growing need.

Don't worry. NCEW is not about to lose its focus on our number-one priority: to stimulate the conscience and quality of opinion writing. Spend a few minutes with Paul Greenberg of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, as I did in March at a Virginia editorial writers' seminar, and the nobility of our calling comes roaring back. NCEW is not about to substitute bean-counting for insightful writing.

But it's time we weighed in on the national media debate. If newspapers and stations are indeed undergoing a fundamental restructuring -- as many argue -- opinion writing needs to be a prominent part of the new mix.

Represented in corporate decisions

NCEW board member Susan Albright, who recently took over as editorial page editor of the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, is heading an NCEW task force that will pull together and distribute reports and arguments that make the dollars-and-cents case for opinion writing. When the corporate decisions are made on budgets, we want to be represented.

Susan and I will update you as the year progresses. We welcome your ideas.

There's another media trend that bears special importance for NCEW: the consolidation of journalism organizations.

From our focus on the editorial page, we have extended the NCEW umbrella over op-ed editors, academics, broadcast editorialists, and columnists.

NCEW's growing diversity is a source of great strength. But it also raises a fundamental question for our organization: How diverse can we become without losing sight of our key priorities?

Dennis Ryerson of The Des Moines Register, who chairs NCEW's Futures Committee, and Van Cavett of The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., who heads our Professional Committee of former presidents, will be grappling with that question this year. We'll be looking at dues structures, membership criteria, and professional activities to mold the character of NCEW into the next century.

More on that, as 1993 progresses.

What are your ideas on dollars-and-cents accountability and NCEW diversity? Call me at (800) 877-0500. From Canada, the number is (703) 373-5000.
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Conference of Editorial Writers
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Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:The President's Letter; opinion writing amid economic difficulty
Author:Jones, Ed
Publication:The Masthead
Date:Jun 22, 1993
Previous Article:Let me make one tense perfectly clear ....
Next Article:Get control of your own budget.

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