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What we say and what we do.

My FIRST NCEW convention was at Colorado Springs in 1985. I wondered for a time if I had come to the right place.

Certainly I was warmly welcomed, meeting peers and availing myself of professionally enriching programs. There were also the traditional after-hours conversations, some on professional topics. As a first-timer I was allowed to sit in on a critique group as an observer.

One thing had me scratching my head.

My rather brief experience in editorial writing had been in close partnership with a very involved publisher who was eager to pass along the values and traditions of the newspaper.

Based on what this fledgling editorial page editor heard that year in Colorado, however, one couldn't be exactly sure that most other newspapers even had a tradition, or a publisher.

Fellow conventioneers talked about their personal agendas. When they turned to the formation of positions, broader influences were seldom acknowledged. The editorial board was supreme, or so it seemed.

Then, in time, this view was modified with strange tales about the dynamics of editorial boards--tales of a super-assertive newsroom manager in one small paper who, by force of personality and longevity, dominated a passive editorial page editor; tales of shops that avoided certain incendiary issues because of a deadlocked board.

If publishers were mentioned at all, it usually was as the object of the verb "to educate," a seeming reversal of the pattern I had experienced. Editorial writers, as nearly as I could tell from bits and snatches of conversation at the convention, found it comforting to present themselves to each other mostly as free agents with regard to the opinions they espoused. A higher level of management was either invisible or malignant.

Over the years, I have learned that 1) NCEW was the right place for this editor, 2) a lot of other newspapers did indeed have a tradition they honored, along with a publisher who took a direct interest in using the voice that by definition is given into his or her stewardship.

Nonetheless, in talking with some younger NCEW members more recently, I discovered some of the same confusion that confronted me. They wondered, based on the buzz of conversation, whether theirs is the only shop with an engaged publisher. And they wondered what the usual distribution of responsibility might be, particularly in a chain-ownership era when the publisher's office sometimes seems to have a revolving door.

The symposium in this edition is an outgrowth of these ruminations. Ultimately, it's likely that no two newspapers are identical in how they handle these questions; factors range from the strength and preparation of the publisher to the forcefulness and persuasive ability of the editorial page editor. Our hope is that this discussion will shed a bit of light on the various approaches, without necessarily coming to a conclusion--although certainly permitting readers to reach one if they choose.

As always, we are indebted to these and other writers who made this discussion possible.
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Title Annotation:Editor's Note
Author:Partsch, Frank
Publication:The Masthead
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Jun 22, 2004
Previous Article:Barbara Mantz Drake.
Next Article:Colleagues (and bosses) are often an advantage: crafting positions as a group requires some respect.

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