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On the other hand, it's just my opinion. (Sept11 The Convention that wasn't).

Here's a little warning if you happen to be in Pittsburgh this week: A bunch of troublemakers is descending on the city.

Most of them don't even have the good grace to leave you alone at the breakfast table. They are forever deploring this and condemning that, or else supporting people or institutions that any fool knows deserve condemnation. On the other hand -- and they are justly famous for employing the phrase "on the other hand" -- these are very nice folks when they are not doing their holy work of being a pain in the butt.

I refer, of course, to the nation's editorial writers. A number of them will be coming here for the annual convention of the National Conference of Editorial Writers, which starts tomorrow.

Allow me a brief timeout for a definition: The editorials and editorial writers I am referring to are denizens of the editorial page, which are dedicated solely to opinion, especially the views of the editor and publisher.

Unfortunately, opinion tends to be spread throughout the modern newspaper, a trend I deplore -- and would deplore further if I didn't myself write a column of opinionated tomfoolery in the PG's magazine section.

In the traditional model, the reporter writes the news story objectively, and then the editorial writer comes along and comments upon it. Thus, the editorial writer is like the man in the circus who walks behind the elephant with a broom, except, of course, he doesn't get as much respect.

Actually, it's a pretty darn good life. It's always fun to tell the nation's leaders how to run the government when you can't arrange your own house.

For once, I write with an insider's knowledge, for I am skilled in the arts of deploring and cajoling, and this column is just a holiday from my regular work.

My day job here at the PG is deputy editorial page editor. In that dour and sober capacity, I write some of the serious unsigned editorials that are such a blessing to insomniacs searching for slumber.

Editorial writing is a bit like prostitution in that the practitioner is motivated by money and no always love. On the other hand -- that phrase again -- good legs are not part of the job description, thank goodness.

However, the understanding is that an editorial writer never has to write anything that is against his or her conscience. As it happens, my own conscience is fairly elastic, my views far from doctrinaire, and this allows me to write arguments on behalf of all sorts of preposterous positions. Even so, I have never written an editorial supporting the deplorable practice of putting ice in beer.

The National Conference of Editorial Writers last had a meeting in Pittsburgh in 1971. It was brought here by the PG's Clarke Thomas, who is a past president and life member of NCEW. My colleague on the editorial page, Tom Waseleski, deserves the credit for attracting the 2001 convention.

So if you should see some folks walking our streets this week looking a little lost, as if they can't quite make up their minds, give them a cheery Pittsburgh greeting. After all, we don't want these influential people to go home and write: "Pittsburgh's an interesting place. But on the other hand...

NCEW member Reg Henry is a deputy editorial page editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This is excerpted from a column that ran the day before the convention was to begin.
COPYRIGHT 2001 National Conference of Editorial Writers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Henry, Reg
Publication:The Masthead
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 22, 2001
Words:575
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