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NCEW links with college editors.

Twenty editors of college newspapers and a six-member, NCEW-recruited "faculty" met at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism June 2. The objective: to critique and discuss college editorials and editorial pages.

The Manhattan gathering was part of a weeklong workshop for the student editors, the second annual offering of the Columbia-sponsored affair and the first time for NCEW to be involved.

As a Columbia j-school grad and current NCEW vice president, I noticed a write-up and photo of last year's inaugural workshop in an alumni newsletter and called to find out more. It turned out the program did not have an element on editorial writing and commentary pages.

Since NCEW has long been interested in educating student journalists in critical writing, I proposed collaboration. Columbia welcomed it.

With support from the NCEW board and NCEW Foundation, the program came together. It centered around two-hour critique sessions in which students commented in detail on each other's pages, which were exchanged in advance. Serving as moderators for each group were NCEW members Maura Casey, Phineas Fiske, John Taylor, and Bernard Stein. Also volunteering was Gayle Williams, not yet an NCEW member.

The enthusiasm and savvy of the students impressed the moderators. So did their sense of commitment to their commentary sections and their engagement in critiques.

Discussion topics are familiar to any NCEW critique veteran: layout and design, writing style and editorial tone, buried leads, balancing research and "news-retelling," handling controversial subjects, use of letters, and commentaries.

Moderators talked about emphasizing local connections, putting a human face on arguments, leavening editorials with humor, and finding other ways to increase impact and persuasiveness.

"I was pleasantly surprised," said Stein of the students, most of whom did much more than write editorials for their papers. "They cared about the opinion pages."

Casey said her critique session evolved into a "mini-workshop" on editorial writing. She said none of the students in her group had any training in critical writing, "and they were dying for it."

After the critique sessions, the moderators spoke informally about the role of the editorial in journalism and related issues. Then conversation continued in a reception underwritten by NCEW.

Students were chosen from colleges that all share a common feature, according to workshop organizer Nancy Beth Jackson: They lack dedicated journalism programs in their curricula. They included Bates, Berkeley, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Lafayette, Middlebury, Penn, Princeton, the University of Rochester, Smith, Stanford, Swarthmore, Yale, and Williams.

NCEW vice president Fred Fiske is senior editorial writer for The Syracuse Newspapers.
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Publication:The Masthead
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 22, 2000
Previous Article:New bonds, fresh perspective.
Next Article:Reading editorials for a living.

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