NCEW's online mailing list enriches class study.
The last time I taught editorial writing, most editorials were written on typewriters and turned in on paper. Then I had to negotiate getting them reproduced so students could read them in time for the next class discussion.
Guest speakers? They had to be lined up months in advance and then I was still subject to the vagaries of their changing schedules. Getting guests from out of town was a challenge and sometimes an expense if their newspapers wouldn't pick up the tab.
This time I still had to deal with changing schedules, but I also acquired something I didn't have 15 years ago: NCEW-L, the organization's online mailing list.
Suddenly I had an offering of more than 100 online guest speakers, both practicing editorial writers and academics teaching editorial writing.
Talk about a textbook in progress. Daily updates. Hourly updates. Sometimes instant updates. And more help than I knew what to do with.
My students joined the list and were exposed first-hand to the running commentary. When I put out a plea for advice on writing endorsement editorials, Van A. Cavett of The Morning Call and Phineas Fiske of Newsday responded with such detailed answers that I downloaded them and turned them into transparencies for next fall's lecture on the endorsement process. By writing editorials in Pennsylvania, Cavett focused on issues my Penn State students were also dealing with as they worked on their endorsement editorials in a state representative's race.
When I asked list members for examples of endorsement editorials, I received several fine samples via fax and also was gently directed by Phil Haslanger to check The Capital Times' Web page. As a class, we also examined Agenda 96 on that Web page, and next year I can see expanding the reading list to other online newspapers.
Fifteen years ago, requiring the class to analyze an editorial page would have been limited to the newspapers our library purchases. Today my students can look at editorial pages from Sydney to Singapore, Beijing to Jerusalem, and probably some points between I haven't bookmarked yet. The world is their oyster, thanks to the Internet.
And thanks to NCEW-L, teaching editorial writing provided a new experience. And it wasn't just the Internet aspect.
As I noted earlier, the members of the list were prompt and helpful with suggestions. Here were people in real time dealing with issues we discussed for an hour and 15 minutes twice a week without making a decision.
We appreciate the supportive nature of list members, and I'm looking forward to the fall. It can only get better.
NCEW member R. Thomas Berner is a professor of journalism and American studies at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.
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|Title Annotation:||Election '96: How We Did, What We Did; National Conference of Editorial Writers|
|Author:||Berner, R. Thomas|
|Date:||Mar 22, 1997|
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