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Learning with legwork. (Editor's Note).

To write solid editorials about education, you really have to get out and investigate the schools firsthand. And you have to think about what you've observed.

Those are the points that Gene I. Maeroff drives home in this issue's symposium on education. Don't just question authority but also question your own preconceived notions about education.

Maeroff's advice comes from his own experiences as national education reporter for The New York Times and as a senior fellow with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Now, as director of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media at Teachers College, Columbia University, Maeroff guides education journalists across the country, including editorial writers.

For three years, the institute has offered, in partnership with NCEW, a seminar expressly for editorial writers. I have attended the interesting and intensive weekend session -- as have all the writers in the symposium: Susan Nielsen, Deborah Locke, and Dan Radmacher.

The material offered there is invaluable. But Maeroff is right: Knowledge is more meaningful when it is combined with legwork at home, whether you are writing about elementary schools, high schools, or colleges and universities.

Connecting with EWA

When I began planning this issue, I did my usual round of calls to folks with special knowledge about education. NCEW president Phil Haslanger suggested I contact Lisa Walker, executive director of Education Writers Association.

Great advice. Walker was helpful with suggestions not only for this issue but also for other education-relation topics we might cover. As we talked, I noted that many of the EWA members she mentioned were also NCEW members -- not a surprise, really, since the editorial writers who write about education must also be good reporters. In fact, NCEW member Steve Henderson, associate editor at the Baltimore Sun, is EWA vice president. And longtime NCEW member Larry Hayes, now retired from the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette in Indiana, was also an EWA officer.

Walker volunteered to send me a copy of EWA's new edition of "Covering the Education Beat: a current guide for editors, writers and the public." It's not a book in the traditional sense. Instead, it is a loose-leaf, updateable guide to covering education. Members get it free but for others, the 232-page book costs $60.

And it's one of the best guides on writing about education I've ever seen. Some 80 sections cover everything from the basics of education to high-stakes testing to for-profit schools. Its easy-to-use format helped me immediately when, while writing an editorial, I was trying to remember when A Nation at Risk came out (1983, under the elder President Bush's term).

The best part is that every section comes with a list of contacts, including numbers and e-mail addresses.

Kay Semion
COPYRIGHT 2002 National Conference of Editorial Writers
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Publication:The Masthead
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2002
Previous Article:Membernews: Milestones, awards, educational opportunities.
Next Article:Editorial writers tackle public school issues. (The State of Education).

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