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Remember the absentee option as 2003 NCEW voting nears. (NCEW Voters' Guide).

For us, every year is election year. An annual feature of NCEW conventions is the election of three board members, each to serve a two-year term. We also elect a secretary who "goes through the chairs" to reach the presidency three years later.

In most years, a convention city is also selected, with three years of lead time. This year will be an exception. That's because delegates to the 2002 convention agreed that Pittsburgh will be the 2006 convention city. Their decision acknowledged the 11th-hour cancellation of the 2001 Pittsburgh convention, which had been scheduled to begin the day after the September 11 terrorist hijackings.

For many years, NCEW voting was a privilege reserved for members present at the convention. That changed in 1995. Recognizing that only about one-third of the members are able to attend any annual convention, the board and members that year established an absentee-voting procedure.

To participate, members who will not be present at the convention for the September 20 business meeting should request an absentee ballot from NCEW Headquarters, 3899 North Front Street, Harrisburg PA 17110, in care of Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. Members who must leave the convention early can request a ballot from the registration desk prior to 6 p.m. on September 19.

Those voting by mail should allow plenty of time--mailed-in votes must be received by NCEW Headquarters no later than September 6.

Candidates for NCEW secretary to be elected at the Providence meeting are J.R. Labbe and Dan Radmacher. Members seeking seats on the NCEW board are Jim Lawrence, John Penney, Kate Riley, Sandra Roberts, Cal Thomas, and Bob Wimer.

RELATED ARTICLE: In their words... The candidates

J.R. Labbe

Candidate for secretary

My apologies to anyone who attended the Nashville convention and got a goody bag sans Jack Daniel's at the closing banquet.

It was my job to stuff a luggage tag, a Goo-Goo Cluster, and a sample of Tennessee's finest into each bag, then secure it with a gold twisty thing. Guess not all the little bottles made it into the bags.

It has been a privilege to do more for NCEW during the six years I've been a member than assemble gift bags, but I have received much more from this remarkable organization than I can give back. How else could a senior editorial writer from Fort Worth sit across the table from secretary of State Colin Powell if not for the annual NCEW briefings at the State Department? I have attended five of them, and the information and contacts are invaluable, especially in these treacherous times for U.S. foreign relations.

I served as chair of the Ethics Committee for two years, and in 2000 and 2001 helped pull together items for the NCEW Foundation's fundraising Celebration.

The past two years, I have participated in NCEW's journalism education efforts, working with the next generation of opinion writers at workshops at SMU.

And then there are the annual conventions. From my first in 1998, in Ottawa, to the '99 convention in Denver, where I was a panelist in a session about balancing home and work, to the 2002 gathering in Nashville, where I headed up NCEW's initial foray into public policy exhibitors, each has been an opportunity to learn more about our craft, meet fascinating experts in a variety of fields, and make cherished friends among the most collegial professional organization I've ever been part of.

The membership was kind enough to elect me to the board at the Seattle convention, and my two-year term was one of exhilaration and anguish. There were experiences I hope to never repeat--the vote to cancel the 2001 convention in Pittsburgh broke our hearts because of the circumstances and the unfulfilled hard work that Tom Waseleski had put into planning the event; the vote to hire a new association management team after almost 30 years of service by Everett Associates was emotionally draining.

Should new adversity beset this organization in the future, there are no more compassionate or dedicated people I would rather face it with than my peers and friends in NCEW.

If elected to the leadership ladder at the September convention in Providence, I want to continue and strengthen our efforts with university journalism students.

As the senior editor of staff development at the Star-Telegram (we're owned by Knight Ridder; everyone has more than one job), I have a role as a talent scout. The young journalists I meet--and whose clips I review--often exhibit little understanding of what makes a persuasive argument. Maybe they listen to too much talk radio, or watch too many screaming-head news shows on TV. But they aren't learning the craft at their universities, many of which don't offer opinion writing.

If we don't help teach them, who will?

I close with a word about my opponent. When John Taylor informed Dan and me that we would be running against each other, my exact words were, "Well, crap." Our terms on the board coincided, and in those two years we became good friends. Last December we drove from Baltimore to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania--right after a snowstorm--to get to the board meeting after the Knight Center seminar on civil liberties. That drive is a cherished memory. Dan is a gifted writer and thoughtful human being, with a keen sense of humor and a love for a good laugh and a cold beer. Whatever the outcome of the September election, NCEW will be well served.

Dan Radmacher

Candidate for secretary

I came to editorial writing--and NCEW--fairly young, especially for those days. I attended my first convention in Lexington (Dweebfest '92) not long after my 28th birthday, and I was one of the youngest people there. I was working for a small newspaper in southern Illinois in a one-person shop, and NCEW soon became a lifeline, as it has for so many others.

In 1993, I moved to a slightly bigger shop in Charleston, West Virginia, the state's capital. There, in a state with a crying need for a voice independent of the dominant special interests that all but ruled the statehouse, I learned that greater responsibility comes with greater influence.

Over the years, NCEW helped me become more confident as a writer and develop a clearer vision of the vital role I want my editorial page to play in my community. The connection with and opportunity to learn from so many other editorial writers across the nation is indescribably invaluable.

An early adopter of advancing technology, I jumped at the chance to join Newsday's Phineas Fiske on NCEW's New Technology Committee. And, when Phineas developed the NCEW listserv, I jumped again, this time to be one of the first to wrongly take offense at one of the messages posted to that list. In fact, I think I may have posted the first apology on NCEW-L. It wouldn't be the last, as I tend to leap into online debates a bit too readily.

One of the goals of the listserv was to extend the convention fellowship year-round. It has taken some of us awhile to realize that, while we may relish the after-hours debates at the convention, not everyone would choose to listen in if given the opportunity.

NCEW is the ultimate big tent, ideologically. The group's collegiality doesn't come from shared political beliefs but from shared professional goals. Political debates, though sometimes educational or entertaining, should never detract from that.

Two years on the NCEW board of directors gave me an increased appreciation of this organization as a labor of love by a dedicated, ever-shifting group of people: board members, committee chairs, the Masthead editor, the convention chair, officers, and past presidents. I have witnessed the brilliant necessity of the "leadership ladder," which is essentially three years of on-the-job training in which the person elected as secretary learns what it will take to be president.

NCEW is a special organization, made up of very special people. As editorial writers, editorial page editors, and columnists, we all strive every day to make a difference in our communities, to make them better places. That energy and idealism have served NCEW well in what is largely a volunteer effort.

I would like to see the organization delve deeper into the pool of available talent and do an even better job of inspiring more members to take an active role in an organization that can be no better than each one of us makes it.

The listserv has done an extraordinary job of connecting the majority of NCEW members who cannot attend every annual convention, or even any convention. We need to find more ways to reach out and engage members so that every day is an opportunity to realize and appreciate the value of this incredible group of people.

NCEW members face a variety of challenges. Some of us are in one- or two-person shops trying to write quality editorials while keeping up with the struggles of editing our pages, often with limited support. Others are part of a larger team of writers dealing with their own set of challenges and opportunities. NCEW is there to help all of us rise to those challenges and make the most of those opportunities.

Jim Lawrence

Candidate for the board

After more than 15 years writing editorials, I've seen quite a few exciting changes in the way editorial pages operate. Foremost, most aren't nearly as stuffy as they once were. There's greater reader involvement, and more pages seem to make an effort to be more inclusive.

Nonetheless, more work is needed in these two areas. As a member of the NCEW board, I'd make improving reader involvement and inclusiveness top priorities.

As I pointed out in a piece for The Masthead last fall, diversity of all kinds is not only desirable but essential if editorial pages are truly committed to representing the myriad voices in the communities they serve. It's not good enough, for instance, to run an African-American or a Hispanic syndicated columnist every now and then. Rather, there ought to be that kind of diversity on a daily basis.

There are more than a handful of examples of pages that are doing a commendable job of reflecting their community. That's welcome progress. Build on it.

NCEW is in many ways helping to do just that. NCEW Foundation's Minority Writers Seminar is a fine example of a mainstream media organization helping to meet a need--greater diversity in opinion writing. I'd like to see NCEW expand this effort by working with newspapers in various locations to sponsor regional editorial writing seminars for people of color. Or maybe NCEW could help individual newspapers hoping to grow their own opinion writers of color.

Finding new and creative ways to expand the editorial page's reach ought to be a priority for all of us as we struggle to hold existing readership and compete for a greater audience on our news pages, online, and to some extent via television.

Our newsrooms are having to compete like never before. Editorial pages must play a lead role in the competition. After all, we have much to offer. Our pages are still the public square for many communities. That's a function not easily duplicated by other media. We should strive to make it even more vital to our audiences.

To that extent, I'd like NCEW to become more of a clearinghouse for successful approaches to community engagement. Again, some of this is already being done.

Can it be done better? Of course it can.

As for my background, I've been editorial page editor at the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York, for the past 11 years. I'm privileged to work with a team of top journalists who've won major awards both as individuals and as an editorial board.

You also might be interested in knowing that I'm a native Floridian who has worked in four metropolitan areas during my 30 years in the news business. I'm a husband, father, and grandfather. I'm also active as a member and steward at Baber African Methodist Episcopal Church, and I spend what little leisure time I have lately producing a video documentary on the life of my 103-year-old cousin, Sarah Glenn, daughter of a slave.

John Penney

Candidate for the board

What is the main purpose of the National Conference of Editorial Writers?

Collective therapy, one could say.

It's a great self-help group that gives ammunition to writers on the front lines and fuels them with energy to continue that fight.

I have made many great friends in the few years I have been associated with NCEW, and I'm running as a candidate for the board because I believe in this organization and want to give something back to it.

I grew up on Long Island, about 30 miles east of New York City, but my life has been defined by small-town experiences.

I attended a small college in West Virginia, then started as a reporter in Wheeling.

Three years later, I became editor of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise, a small daily newspaper near Lake Placid in upstate New York. It was an overwhelming job for a 25-year-old--sheer trial by fire. But I had the unique opportunity to learn all aspects of journalism: writing editorials, working with reporters to develop stories, even developing film at times. Whatever it took to get the paper out.

Editorial writing was, by far, the most rewarding aspect of the job.

When I had the opportunity to devote my energies to that after joining the Poughkeepsie Journal and becoming editor of the Journal's editorial page, I jumped at the chance. That was three years ago, and it's been a fulfilling three years.

A recent discussion on the NCEW listserv revealed many of us are getting more feedback though the letters to the editor forum. This is an encouraging sign, but it doesn't surprise me. Even with the popularity of the "talking heads" on TV news programs, people want to connect with their neighbors. And there's no better place to do that than through the local newspaper.

As I pursue a position on the NCEW board, I am fortunate to have the support of the Journal's publisher, Richard Wager, and its executive editor Meg Downey, also an NCEW member (and former board member herself). They know NCEW is a dynamic group, providing its membership with important opportunities to meet with colleagues occasionally and to share experiences. We face great challenges, especially in a tight economy. But NCEW's worth is self-evident to its members. It's a message I'd like to help spread to others.

Kate Riley

Candidate for the board

I am happy to do whatever I can to keep the National Conference of Editorial Writers a strong and vital organization, because I have benefited in many ways.

As a former page editor in a small town with a population of exactly two editorial writers, I could commiserate with scores of colleagues at the hit of the "enter" button. When I wanted to pitch adding an op-ed page because the main page was shrinking as my newspaper was going to a 50-inch web, I cast about for additional arguments to persuade my boss--successfully.

When it seemed most of the readers in my relatively conservative area were against me because of a controversial editorial, an "Attagirl" or two from smart people I'd never laid eyes on made it all better.

NCEW's listserv and The Masthead connected me to a great group of people who care not just about journalism but also about that very special privilege of engaging in persuasive journalism. This network made the trade of editorial writing--often misunderstood even in our own newsrooms--a little less lonely and a lot more fun.

NCEW networking, I'm sure, helped me make some acquaintances that indirectly led to my current gig as editorial writer and columnist for The Seattle Times.

I serve on the NCEW's Ethics Committee and as an associate editor of The Masthead. Last year, I shook down members for donations for last year's NCEW Foundation Celebration fundraiser.

I began my newspaper career 18 years ago as a business reporter. I moved to editorial writing in 1993, was promoted to editorial page editor at the Tri-City Herald in 1998, and joined the Times about a year ago. I am married to Jim Riley, and we have a six-year-old son.

Sandra Roberts

Candidate for the board

NCEW's mission is to help editorial writers improve professionally, whether they are veterans with walls full of awards or novices just getting their feet wet in what I believe is the greatest job in journalism.

By virtue of age and seniority, I put myself in the veteran camp. I've worked at The Tennessean since 1974, began writing editorials in 1983 and was named editorial page editor (now called managing editor/opinion) in 1987. From 1990 through 1994 during the legislative sessions, I co-hosted a weekly public television program on government and politics. I also belong to the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

I joined NCEW in 1984 and was the convention chair for last year's convention in Nashville. (Everyone should have this humbling experience once. You see your city in a much different way when you've invited a few hundred friends to visit.) I've also written for The Masthead, helped with the local arrangements for the Minority Writers Seminar, and participated in a regional workshop for college editorial writers.

For those of us who sometimes feel like we've seen it all and written it twice, NCEW provides the invaluable benefit of keeping professional fires stoked. Through the listserv, Masthead, conventions, workshops, and casual contacts, members are reminded that there is always a different approach, a new reference source, another argument that needs rebutting. Through the NCEW network, our visions are enlarged and our imaginations are restored.

I'd like to see NCEW's leadership focus on building membership through outreach efforts and building loyalty by encouraging more involvement from its members, including members who can't attend conventions.

Specifically: Publishers and editors, most of whom belong to their professional organizations, need to get the message of the value of NCEW membership to their editorial writers; NCEW should sponsor more regional one-day meetings to help create local professional networks and demonstrate the worth of NCEW membership; NCEW members who can't attend annual conventions should be enlisted in NCEW activities, including serving on committees. And in addition to the listserv, NCEW should maximize the use of both its website and e-mail to keep members connected.

The media industry has changed radically in the years I've been in it. It's honed its business skills and lost some of its passion. While NCEW has an abundance of passion, it needs to sharpen its business skills and aggressively sell its message of professionalism.

Cal Thomas

Candidate for the board

Newspapers were the furthest thing from my mind when, as a lark (and never thinking any paper would print more than a letter to the editor from me) I wrote a colunm about censorship.

It was 1983 and the 50th anniversary of the Nazi book burning in Berlin. I had just published a book about censorship called, appropriately, Book Burning The newspapers (and TV screens) were full of stories about right-wingers who were upset about naughty words in dictionaries and other such silliness. There was a case to be made that censorship was not limited to one wing.

The New York Times printed the column. It is still framed on my wail as a rare document. The Washington Post printed two other columns I wrote. All that acceptance was hurting my "media bias" speech.

Tom Johnson, then publisher of the Los Angeles Times, decided to take a chance on an "unknown" and let me try my hand at syndication. That was 19 years and 550 papers ago. While I continue to have a presence in television and radio and on the lecture circuit, the greatest professional satisfaction I get is from my column.

Joining NCEW about 10 years ago--the only professional association to which I belong--has created new and treasured friendships I otherwise might not have had.

The annual conventions, as well as the e-mail and other exchanges during the year, are a great source of encouragement and camaraderie. I am regularly encouraging editors to join NCEW. Some have done so.

It is important to expand our membership and to broaden the informational resources on which we draw so that all members might find us more "fair and balanced" (as we say at Fox News Channel). Should I be elected to the board, these will be my twin and primary objectives.

Bob Wimer

Candidate for the board

Throughout my association with NCEW, its programs and goals have inspired me to be a better editorial writer. As basically a one-person shop, that association has been important because it has given me the experience of others to turn to when I had a question. I have always found my colleagues in the organization more than willing to help me work through or around any of the problems that face all of us as we turn out editorial pages 365 days a year.

My relationship with NCEW began in 1986 with the annual meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, where I faced my first critique with the trepidation that has gripped most of us on the eve of that initial critique session. I learned that my editorials were too reasonable, that the point wasn't strong enough, and that some of the subjects were unworthy of an editorial in the first place. Otherwise, I was doing a fine job.

In the years since, I have learned much from other critiques and NCEW events. A special writing critique session at St. Paul in 1989 stands out. I had the unenviable task of critiquing Paul Greenberg's work, while he and the always-reticent Catherine Ford took turns offering suggestions that would improve my writing.

Programs at the annual meetings have provided me with material for editorials weeks and months after the convention adjourned. The one in Salt Lake City in 1991, where we focused on health care, was especially timely and raised issues still debated.

Although I don't have time to contribute to it often, the organization's listserv continues to be a valuable tool for editorial writers all over the country.

"Throwing modesty to the winds" is a phrase Cal Thomas, one of the other candidates in this election, recently used in tooting his own horn. Let me say I've won prizes, often because of the help NCEW colleagues have offered over the years. So it's not just longevity that accounts for winning nearly two dozen awards for editorial writing and page design. They include first place in the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association's annual editorial writing contest in 2002 in the category for papers under 50,000 circulation.

I have been editorial page editor of The News & Advance in Lynchburg, Virginia, since 1983. having been city editor and state political writer in the years before that. I began my newspaper career with The Daily Progress in Charlottesville, Virginia, and spent a year as editor of two weekly papers that provided good experience.

I am honored to be a candidate for the NCEW board. If elected, I hope to give back to the organization a measure of what it has given to me.

E-mail the candidates

* J. R. Labbe jrlabbe@star-telegram.com

* Dan Radmacher danrad@wvgazette.com

* Jim Lawrence jlawrenc@democratandchronide.com

* John Penney jpenney@poughkee.gannett.com

* Kate Riley kriley@seattletimes.com

* Sandra Roberts sroberts2@nashvill.gannett.com

* Cal Thomas jctlatsyn@aol.com

* Bob Wimer rwimer@newsadvance.com

Three of six candidates will be chosen this fall to serve two-year terms on the NCEW board of directors. The nominees are:

* Jim Lawrence, editorial page editor of the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York.

* John Penney, editorial page editor of the Poughkeepsie Journal in New York.

* Kate Riley, editorial writer and columnist for The Seattle Times.

* Sandra Roberts, managing editor/opinion of The Tennessean in Nashville.

* Cal Thomas, syndicated columnist based in Alexandria, Virginia.

* Bob Wimer, editorial page editor of The News & Daily Advance in Lynchburg, Virginia.
COPYRIGHT 2003 National Conference of Editorial Writers
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:National Conference of Editorial Writers
Author:Partsch, Frank
Publication:The Masthead
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2003
Words:4014
Previous Article:How to run a Texas-sized regional.
Next Article:Leaving a tough year behind. (NCEW Foundation: Projects and Programs for Journalism Education).


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