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The Pittsburgh convention is better than we thought: new and improved!

A funny thing happened on the way through the spring board meeting. NCEW leaders decided to shake a few things up for the Pittsburgh convention.

No problem for me--I've ripped up a convention before.

Actually, this was no wholesale gutting of the program we've been assembling for the past six months--just a substitution here and there due to a compelling strategic planning session the NCEW board had in April. (Memo to future convention chairs: Even when you think the program is nailed down, be flexible.)

In other words you can call the convention, set for September 13-16 at the Sheraton Station Square, new and improved. Our theme, "Reinventing America," still applies, though, with speakers like:

* Margaret Spellings, secretary of education, on No Child Left Behind

* Paul O'Neill, former treasury secretary, on health care reform and other unthinkable thoughts

* Governor Ed Rendell, former DNC chair, on the future of the Democratic Party

* Arlen Specter, the most independent Republican in the Senate, on the future of the GOP

* Teresa Heinz Kerry on building sustainable communities

* New York Times critic and Gourmet editor Ruth Reichl on the politics of food

* A blue-chip panel on rising national debt, the crisis America can't afford, and a trio of experts on homeland security, five years after 9/11

The late-breaking additions to the program involve the craft of opinion writing in the twenty-first century. Under the heading of "Facing the Future," we've added two discussion sessions of prime importance.

Part one, Is Your Opinion Operation Ready?, will be facilitated by media consultant and former publisher John Oppedahl and will help NCEW members grapple with the challenges posed by online technology. Part two, Are You Ready? (And How Can NCEW Help?), is an unusual convention opportunity for NCEW members to sound off on how the organization can be most useful in this time of sweeping industry change (facilitated by NCEW president J.R. Labbe and vice president Neil Heinen).

The heart and soul of the NCEW convention remains the daylong critique session on Thursday. Critiques chair Pete Wasson of the Wausau Daily Herald is planning a constructive, illuminating experience, whether you're a first-time critiquer or a veteran. The knowledge, tips, and ideas gained from the critiques are alone worth the price of admission.

We'll also have professional workshops on editorial crusades, online innovations, and surviving life in a small shop. And don't forget NCEW University, those mini workshops assembled by dean Rick Horowitz for anyone arriving by Wednesday afternoon.

It would be a good idea to clip the previous paragraphs and drop them on your publisher's desk with your request to attend the Pittsburgh convention. But just so you know, you'll be able to catch your breath during this heavy-duty program, there's more.

Our opening reception will be aboard the Keystone Belle, a sternwheeler that will ply the three rivers for an evening cruise. The optional Thursday tour will stop in the morning at Frank Lloyd Wrights Fallingwater, one of America's architectural treasures; after lunch, the group will visit the National Historic Site at Shanksville, where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed on September 11, 2001.

On Friday afternoon, we'll venture to the University of Pittsburgh campus for a tour of the gothic Cathedral of Learning and its nationality classrooms, fashioned by immigrant craftspeople as a tribute to the cultures that built Pittsburgh. Our grand finale, after Saturday's dinner, will be unlike anything previously seen at NCEW--the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble will perform "Letters to the Editor," a series of readings of actual newspaper letters through history. Some are humorous, some are poignant, and all of it is moving.

During a convention in River City, where else should you stay but along the banks of the Monongahela River? The Sheraton has a spectacular view of the Pittsburgh skyline that beckons from every window. Even our hospitality suite has a private terrace overlooking the water. There's even word that the NCEW nightly sing-along, not heard since the abrupt cancellation of the 2001 convention, will make its raucous return. (Keep your fingers crossed?)

With the adjacent Station Square nightlife district, the nearby "inclines" to the top of Mount Washington and the Pirates at home in PNC Park (arguably the nation's finest ballpark) during convention week, even the diversions will be memorable.

This is NCEW's comeback convention, held in one of America's comeback cities. Don't miss it!

Tom Waseleski, editorial page editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is NCEW's 2006 (and 2001) convention chair. E-mail twaseleski@ post-gazette.com
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Title Annotation:National Conference of Editorial Writers
Author:Waseleski, Tom
Publication:The Masthead
Geographic Code:1U2PA
Date:Jun 22, 2006
Words:745
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