Editorial Writers/Editors to Chart Future at Special Meeting

By: Sarah Weber On September 15, 2006, John Oppedahl stood before the National Conference of Editorial Writers (NCEW) and told them: ?Your audience is rejecting you.? However, the former San Francisco Chronicle publisher went on to say, there is hope yet for what he deemed the ?enviable position? in the newspaper world.

?All editorialists are in an enviable position, much more so than newspaper Washington bureau chiefs or national and international news editors at local newspapers or television studios,? he asserted. ?All of the latter are all quickly being made redundant. But look at you?you have authority, credibility, and your institutions have amazing local brand identity?still.?

Among those in attendance that day was Eddie Roth, an editorial writer for the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News and a board member of the NCEW Foundation board of trustees. Roth sent out a memo to his fellow NCEW members one month after Oppedahl stood before them. Titled ?NCEW Challenge: Inventing Opinion Pages? Future,? it touched upon Oppedahl?s points and added many more in a lengthy addendum.

Now, half a year later, Oppedahl will moderate an NCEW meeting to be held in Dayton, Ohio from June 26-27. The meeting will be hosted by the Kettering Foundation and participants will involve editorial writers/editors, including Roth, and academics.

Roth, a self-described ?great consumer of newspapers,? relished the idea of helping the editorial community move forward instead of getting caught in the winds of change. ?I feel there?s a lot of change afoot,? Roth says, ?but in the end, I think people still want what we do. The new media presents a lot of opportunities?.?

?When I heard Oppedahl, I was like, this is great. We?re hearing this from a business side, we?re not sort of wondering anymore. He is a man who?s been there, who?s made business decisions and yet maintained journalistic standards.

Roth added that he put the addendum together to ?give people a sense of possibilities?.I think the key is more adapting to the online part, and really in a big way?We?re all running really fast on the treadmill right now getting out the pages, and at the same time trying to implement these new ways; it?s tough to make it happen.?

The addendum gives NCEW members three sections which each contain a dozen or more examples of how editorial writing can be expanded upon and improved. The sections are titled ?Taking the Pages to the Community,? "Bringing the Community to the Pages,? and ?Traditional Content.??

Some examples of ideas include:

The After-Dinner Activist: ?Columns and commentary about grass roots community projects hatched during the evening hours.?

See It Our Way: ?The online archive of video editorials, and their print companions.?

Think Tank: ?A video recording booth where public officials and ordinary citizens can record statements for position on the opinion page Web site.?

From the Pulpit: ?Audio, video, and print excerpts from preachers?
sermons, and activists? and scholars? public speeches?their rhetorical
Sunday best.?

Get Up; Stand Up: ?A download center for reader- and commercially-produced mp3 music files containing songs of social protest and progress.?


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