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Pull outsiders in through window of opportunity.

THE JOYS OF BEING an outsider looking in can be great, except -- I think -- when one is supposed to be an insider.

I was an NCEW member for about seven years but never really felt a part.

Economic realities usually prevented my attendance at the convention -- and, I suspect, that of a good number of other members. But outside of the convention, I found surprisingly few opportunities for meaningful participation in the organization.

If it seriously wants to grow, NCEW must work on involving more people in its operation and activities. The alternative to doing so, I fear, is slow death, perhaps following the emergence of some alternate organization.

NCEW might consider the following:

* Allowing all of the organization's members to participate in the election of the organization's leadership. The executive board took a very small step in that direction recently when it agreed to allow those registered for the convention who can't stay for the business meeting to vote by absentee ballot.

This needs to be expanded. It is, frankly, shocking that an organization of editorial writers, of all people, hasn't done something about this sooner.

* Asking the organization's members occasionally to put rank aside. The editorial page editors who are members of NCEW might occasionally move to the background to allow involvement by those who work for them, particularly younger and female and minority staff members whose participation in NCEW activities still seems disproportionately low.

* Strengthening the organization's committee structure. I recall having received telephone calls a couple of times for my thoughts on some issue, but I am aware of only one instance of a committee on which I had agreed to serve actually doing something -- the year the Education Committee mailed packets of information about the cooperative efforts of schools and newspapers in the United States and Canada.

* Developing weekend regional activities. Events like that put NCEW within driving distance of more members on days that don't leave their pages impossibly short-staffed.

* Sponsoring more specialized activities. NCEW has hosted gatherings over the past few years for op-ed page editors. Seminars aimed at columnists and would be columnists come to mind.

* Encouraging a broad-based dialogue about the organization's direction. A survey of members might be the way to begin.

Who knows? Like the letters to the editor that inform and occasionally even surprise editorial page staffs, the survey responses could open everyone's eyes to a whole new way of thinking about NCEW and its future.

Former NCEW member Jacqueline Thomas is news editor at The Detroit News.
COPYRIGHT 1993 National Conference of Editorial Writers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:In Search of Diversity: The Masthead Symposium; reforming the National Conference of Editorial Writers
Author:Thomas, Jacqueline
Publication:The Masthead
Date:Jun 22, 1993
Previous Article:Minority voices sound like one hand clapping.
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