#nsnc14dc: Crafting Columns, Getting Them Known

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Why were we here, besides for our writer friends and some sight­see­ing? To get bet­ter. Speak­ers at the 2014 con­fer­ence of the National Soci­ety of News­pa­per Colum­nists dis­cussed pol­i­tics, gov­ern­ment and his­tory, but the focus was on devel­op­ment of our skills. Hence, two wrap-up pieces.

John Avlon, Eric Heyl, Alexandra Petri and Ben Pollock after the morning session of the NSNC conference Saturday, June 28, 2014.

John Avlon (from left), Eric Heyl, Alexan­dra Petri and Ben Pol­lock after the morn­ing ses­sion of the NSNC con­fer­ence Sat­ur­day, June 28, 2014. Suzette Mar­tinez Stan­dring photo

I tried to live-tweet a lot except when called away on con­fer­ence busi­ness. (Nature called at times, too.) Rather than para­graph­ing these notes, the fol­low­ing com­prises head­ings then the top quotes of speak­ers, anno­tated as needed. Other con­fer­ees posted live as well, and I bor­row from them. For var­i­ous rea­sons, some sec­tions are longer.

“Indus­try Changes and Strate­gies for Suc­cess” — Con­nie Schultz, Cre­ators Syn­di­cate colum­nist and win­ner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary

There is a skill and a craft to col­umn writ­ing that is abet­ted by age and expe­ri­ence.” “I don’t know a colum­nist who doesn’t spend a lot of time talk­ing. Use some of that time on Face­book.” “Being on social media as a colum­nist helps you con­trol what is said about you in other media.” “We are the gate­keep­ers for our own image.” “Don’t cre­ate envy in peo­ple,” so down­play or avoid ref­er­ences to your rel­a­tive afflu­ence. “If I were any more trans­par­ent I’d be plas­tic wrap,” on dis­clos­ing her mar­riage to Sen. Sher­rod Brown, D-Ohio.  “They will always accuse you of bias. That doesn’t mean it exists.”

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#nsnc14dc: Columnists in the Capital & Beyond

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Speak­ers at the 38th annual con­fer­ence of the National Soci­ety of News­pa­per Colum­nists could be sep­a­rated into two gen­eral top­ics, with over­lap: Some focused on Wash­ing­ton and cap­i­tal news, and oth­ers on devel­op­ing of craft­ing and mar­ket­ing columns. Hence, two sto­ries. I took a lot of notes and live-tweeted, except when I […]

Puttanesca Off Line

This pasta sauce says sum­mer to me louder than gaz­pa­cho soup. If you’re des­per­ate for hot weather, this’ll be almost as good with canned toma­toes and dried basil. The tem­per­a­ture con­trast between room tem­per­a­ture sauce and steam­ing pasta is delib­er­ate. Here’s a quote from a 1985 news­pa­per recipe by Arthur “Food Maven” Schwartz: “Some uncooked pasta […]

Principles of Journalism Pay

I have a real full-time job, near ideal actu­ally, its long title notwith­stand­ing. On June 12, I signed a for­mal offer to serve as 2014–15 Interim Assis­tant Direc­tor of the Uni­ver­sity of Arkansas Cen­ter for Ethics in Jour­nal­ism and Instruc­tor of Jour­nal­ism. It com­prises the same respon­si­bil­i­ties and term as assis­tant direc­tor, with­out the “interim,” […]

A C Note

We asked for it so I can’t com­plain. We dined out to cel­e­brate. It would so kill the mood to ask what’s an add-on and what comes-with on each and every item, so we didn’t. Boy, did I pay for it. Here is a cau­tion to near-vegans and veg­ans, like My Beloved and me. All the pasta/risotto […]

Fingerholds on a Slippery Slope

It’s a busi­ness meet­ing with two 30-something women I’ve never met, the wrong place to bring up any­thing per­sonal. I know that. The hour is near­ing an end. Nearly all the seri­ous stuff is done. This is actu­ally a del­i­cate moment. Things can be screwed up moments before all is said and done. One of the women […]

Tall Lady Short but Sound

It’s unfair to say one feels let down by a free pro­gram. It’s more unrea­son­able to feel let down by a non-performer’s per­for­mance. Alas, sev­eral of us did; I asked around after­ward. Writer Joyce Carol Oates, 75, still teach­ing at Prince­ton and other cam­puses, was fas­ci­nat­ing for her 45 min­utes onstage at the Fayet­teville Town […]

Tasty Homemade Matzo

This matzo recipe tastes way bet­ter than a box. That’s the joke about store­bought matzo, the unleav­ened bread eaten instead of con­ven­tional yeast or bak­ing soda/powder loaves or other baked goods dur­ing the Jew­ish hol­i­day of Passover. Yet I’ve always liked matzo, and factory-made does taste far bet­ter than card­board. Home­made isn’t dif­fi­cult, though takes […]

Ethos Ethics Ethicker Ethicist

Spring for jour­nal­ists marks the end of con­test entry sea­son and the begin­ning of con­fer­ences and work­shops. Heavy think­ing threat­ens the daf­fodils. Ethics com­mit­tees of two groups, the Soci­ety of Pro­fes­sional Jour­nal­ists and the Online News Asso­ci­a­tion, are mark­ing this cli­mate change with pro­pos­als. SPJ’s is revis­ing its Code of Ethics, last dolled up in […]

Two Tales, or Maybe One

Ethics Pre­sen­ta­tion for “News Report­ing II” (This is not a blog post per se but an out­line for a talk I’m giv­ing to a class. It’s not a PowerPoint-like slide show, although a short video is included. It’s both for my use and for stu­dents if they wish to check links etc.) I. The slay­ing for apparently […]