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Portrait of NCEW features few minority faces.

"WHAT'S WRONG with this picture?" I think that's what I mumbled to myself a few years ago when I attended my first NCEW convention in Orlando.

One of the first members to greet me was Don Lowery, an African-American broadcast journalist from Boston. He was also NBEA president at the time. Initially, I was impressed; that is, until I scanned the room some more. Surprisingly, I counted the African-American, the Hispanic-American, and the Asian-American editorialists on one hand.

"How could this be," I thought. "Not in 1990! Not with hundreds and hundreds of newspapers, radio and television stations across our nation. Is this a true reflection of America and its melting pot of diversity?"

I missed the Salt Lake City convention in 1991 but attended the one in Lexington last fall. This time around, I was able to count the minority journalists on two hands. A slight improvement. However, on the broadcast side I, in a sense, stood alone. Lowery is no longer in the business.

In spite of my rather peculiar status, I have never felt uncomfortable or unwanted in this organization. I've come away from each convention feeling personally and professionally enriched. It's an opportunity to share information, to be critiqued by your peers and to build meaningful friendships. I always go back to Detroit with new ideas and a renewed commitment to the business of writing opinions. And, yes, I am looking forward to Philadelphia.

NCEW is like most other organizations: You get out of it what you put into it. What concerns me, though -- and I believe many other members -- is that for a number of good reasons, there aren't more broadcast and minority editorialists active in NCEW. They're missing out on The Masthead, the regional development seminars, the overseas tours, and the annual conventions.

No doubt, part of the problem is directly related to financial cutbacks throughout the industry. If a particular newspaper decides it can afford to send only one editorial staffer to the convention, it will almost certainly be the senior editor.

Radio and television stations face an additional set of circumstances. Many of them don't even bother to editorialize. Of those that do, some may not be familiar with NCEW.

To be perfectly frank, I stumbled upon the organization purely by accident. I got my first journalism job in 1979. For a long time I had heard of ASNE, RTNDA, NABJ, NAHJ, and the Nieman Foundation, but I'm certain that as recently as four years ago I knew absolutely nothing about NBEA or NCEW. Why? I'm not sure.

Nevertheless, I have to believe that we are still overlooking potential members -- print, broadcast, whites, blacks, others -- all over the country.

Take Detroit. It is one of the few TV markets in the United States where all three major network affiliates editorialize on a regular basis. Yet, to my knowledge, I am the only Detroit TV broadcaster active in NCEW. Changing that situation has become a personal crusade for me.

As I looked at my colleagues in Lexington last fall, I remembered an old saying, "If you aren't part of the solution, then you're part of the problem." With that thought planted firmly between my two ears, I volunteered to work with the NCEW Minority Affairs and Membership committees.

By the year 2000, it is estimated that the majority of America's work force will be made up of minorities and women. If current reading trends continue, an overwhelming number of our citizens will get their daily dosage of news, information, and opinions from primarily one source, television. Now that's scary.

So if we want NCEW to survive, our membership as well as our industry will have to reflect this change in society as a whole.

Media executives will have to encourage their employees to forge stronger and more creative relationships with inner city schools, African-American colleges and universities, and various minority journalism programs.

As an organization, and as individuals, we must seek to recruit the brightest, the youngest, and the most diverse opinion writers. If we do so, then we will better serve the public as well as our profession.

Yes, it sure would be nice to walk into an NCEW convention one day and say, "What's right with this picture?"

NCEW member Chuck Stokes is editorial/public affairs director for WXYZ-TV in Detroit.
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Title Annotation:In Search of Diversity: The Masthead Symposium; National Conference of Editorial Writers
Author:Stokes, Chuck
Publication:The Masthead
Date:Jun 22, 1993
Words:720
Previous Article:Pull outsiders in through window of opportunity.
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