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Make time for Chicago's fun, professional growth.

By the time issue of The Masthead appears, the mean season will be in full swing.

Unfortunately, that is the way I've come to view political campaign time, particularly in presidential election years. Not only are party loyalists watching us like hawks and reading partisan meaning into our every decision, but also hours and hours of extra work go into interviewing political candidates, from near the top of the ballot to the bottom.

Respite will come, of course, during the late September/ early October NCEW convention in Chicago. Those of us in states where widespread early voting requires early endorsements will have finished our task. Others who endorse later in the season will have to plan to take a few days out for the convention. The editorial writers' gathering will offer not only a brief break and time to commiserate with others going through the process but also new ideas for doing endorsements more efficiently and more effectively.

In fact, a recent e-mail exchange on the NCEW listserv has spurred an addition to the program. An "early-bird" session at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday will offer an informal venue for a discussion on endorsements. Members can grab coffee and breakfast and join a session led by former NCEW president Ed Jones of the Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Of course, the debate already is in full swing on whether endorsements really matter, a staple of the political year. I tell local audiences that our endorsements matter in inverse proportion to their position on the ballot. The nearer the top--with, of course, the presidential race in the leading position--the less readers heed our advice. That's because people already have strong opinions about the presidential candidates. They also have many sources of information about them. That's not the case for obscure positions bringing up the rear. In Texas, where judges are elected, voters face lists of names they don't know of people who want to be their judges. They often take our endorsements into the ballot box as a cheat sheet. We've made it easier for them by preparing a printable box of endorsements on our website, as I'm sure many of you have as well.

But, don't worry. The early-bird session on endorsements won't be so theoretical. We'll undoubtedly talk about ways to streamline the process (such as having all candidates for a race in at the same time), rating the candidates rather than endorsing them, and other new ideas that people are trying. Sure, it'll be hard to get up early on the last morning of the convention, but it will build character.

And that, of course, is only one of the myriad reasons we'll hope to see you in Chicago.

If you've never attended an NCEW convention, you haven't experienced the satisfaction of finding yourself bonding with people who understand exactly what you're going through--good or bad. They can match your every most-difficult-candidate story, your every letter-to-the-editor problem, and your every most-satisfying-editorial experience. And they know the importance of what you do every day because they do it too.

So plan for those candidate interviews so you'll leave September 29-October 2 available for a trip to Chicago. We hope to see you then.

Lynnell Burkett is editorial page editor of the San Antonio Express-News in Texas. E-mail lburkett@express-news.net
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Title Annotation:President's letter: straight talk from Lynnell Burkett
Author:Burkett, Lynnell
Publication:The Masthead
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2004
Words:552
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