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The best way to predict the future of commentary? Invent it!

For the past six years, NCEW officers and board members have been engaged in planning the future of this organization.

Since April 2000 in Seattle, one day has been set aside at each spring board meeting to examine our mission, our services to members, and our needs. When we began our objectives were pretty clear: Review our purposes, decide what we do well to fulfill those purposes, what we should no longer do, and what we should do new or better. We realized that we had a responsibility to manage and lead this terrific organization thoughtfully and purposefully.

A lot of this was prompted by the realization that we were facing the imminent, historic change in our headquarters, and some particularly vexing membership challenges. But we soon realized we had an opportunity as well to strengthen the financial foundation of NCEW, more effectively and efficiently deliver services, and perhaps begin to anticipate the future for opinion writing and how we might prepare for that future.

The current executive committee and board, ably assisted by committed committee chairs, come before you now with the results of that work, a request for your involvement and support, and a promise of a membership-wide discussion of the future as it appears to be unfolding. The process has taken some interesting twists and turns over the past six years, but we are clearly at a pivotal point in our history, and some ideas have emerged that we think will significantly affect the way we do business, as editorial writers and as an organization, for years to come.

To be sure, the effort has already borne fruit. With the help of facilitator Ken Schaefer, the board oversaw the process of identifying and contracting with a new headquarters operation, reorganized our committee structure, created a Development Committee to focus on fundraising, analyzed and improved our communications functions and began to emphasize the Web as an important organizational and communications tool.

There have been changes in membership guidelines, dues structure, and the site selection process. In many ways we've matured as an organization, evolving from a traditional, convention-based model to a professional organization that must meet the changing financial, technological, and job-based needs of members on a more regional basis.

If you come to Pittsburgh in September you'll help us get there. (See President J.R. Labbe's column for more.) Over the past year and a half, our new facilitators Toni Antonellis and John Oppedahl have helped us identify several key areas for determining if we, and our individual opinion operations, are ready to face the future.

Oppedahl will be on hand to review the work performed at our spring board meeting, especially on three major issues: How NCEW can expand its influence, relevance, and membership; the effect of the Internet on traditional newspaper and television editorial operations; and the very future itself of editorializing and the presentation of institutional opinion. The board believes change is happening quickly, and we want to get out ahead of it. And we plan to make optimal use of our strengths to do so.

Let's make our case. Let's take it to our publishers and general managers. Then let's take it to our readers and viewers and listeners. John Oppedahl is suggesting, "the best way to predict the future is to invent it." We think our investment in strategic planning has put us in a great position to start the invention.

In Pittsburgh we'll face the future.

Neil Heinen of WISC-TV, Madison, Wisconsin, is vice president of NCEW and chairs the strategic planning committee. E-mail
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Title Annotation:SPECIAL REPORT: Strategic Planning
Author:Heinen, Neil
Publication:The Masthead
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2006
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