Column Group Drops Griego Erwin as Speaker; Former ‘Sac Bee’ Writer Responds

By: Dave Astor

The National Society of Newspaper Columnists said it’s dropping former Sacramento (Calif.) Bee columnist Diana Griego Erwin as a June 24 conference speaker because she didn’t respond in time to phone calls.

Griego Erwin — who resigned last month from the Bee over charges she fabricated some sources — said the NSNC had her cell-phone number, and that she could have been contacted that way. “I didn’t know they were trying to reach me,” she told E&P. “I’m not sitting at my desk 24/7. I had been traveling to talk to people about possible writing projects.” Griego Erwin added that she has also been busy looking for new housing.

NSNC President Suzette Martinez Standring said the organization didn’t have Griego Erwin’s cell-phone number. “We tried to reach her for two weeks,” she told E&P. “We have a conference to put on. Yesterday was absolutely the last day we could get a good replacement for her. It was never our intention to disinvite her.”

Griego Erwin’s appearance during the June 23-26 NSNC meeting in Grapevine, Texas, was scheduled long before she left the Bee. After her resignation, the NSNC was still willing to have her speak — and Griego Erwin told the organization she would still do so (E&P Online, May 12).

Standring explained that the NSNC left phone (and e-mail) messages for Griego Erwin during the last two weeks of May because it wanted to re-confirm she would appear. “It’s routine — you always double-check with all your speakers,” Standring said. “But in her case, it was essential to get a clear commitment from her that she intended to follow through. We couldn’t have a hole in the schedule.”

Even if the NSNC theoretically reinvited her, Griego Erwin is not sure she’d agree. “I’m a little put out,” she said. But Griego Erwin did add: “I wish them the best. Column-writing is a great thing. I loved it.”

When E&P asked if she wanted to comment on the Bee’s fabrication allegations, Griego Erwin declined. “I’ve said everything I’m going to say about that,” she responded, referring to her denials of wrongdoing in other stories about her resignation.

Conference host Dave Lieber, a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is replacing Griego Erwin with writing coach Paula LaRocque.

The new NSNC speaker does a column for Quill magazine (published by the Society of Professional Journalists) as well as one for The Dallas Morning News, where she formerly worked as a writing coach and assistant managing editor. LaRocque has also worked as a consultant for the Associated Press, taught writing at various universities, and authored books such as “The Book on Writing: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Well” and “Championship Writing: 50 Ways to Improve Your Writing.”

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