BOSTON — In any year you have extraordinary times, where many are surprises. That’s to be expected. A few instances are scheduled, and their worth increases with planning. I’ve attended every annual summer conference of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists since 1999 except 2004’s in New Orleans.
I love the camaraderie most of all, which is a good thing because the serious work of a conference — panels and lectures and mini-workshops — seem to wrap up nearly before they start. Hey, you try to keep a common hour special, much less one that the presenters have planned for months. One problem is the occasional bad session, where sometimes it is rotten and other times it just wasn’t what you the participant wanted or expected. On the good hours, and the NSNC has maybe 85 percent good working sessions, you find yourself panting for the one good comment that will inspire you for months. You get it, but the time receiving it — there goes that whisp.
This morning Mary Ann Lindley of the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat recalled the early days of the society. She was president when I attended the 1991 Charleston, W. Va., convention, which got me hooked. Lindley, and Bill Tammeus of Kansas City performed my request of critiquing a few of my columns in the weeks after the conference. Even nice people don’t have to do that, but they did. But Mary Ann apparently left the Omni Parker House shortly afterward; I didn’t get to thank her.
By the way, I’m just recalling a very few key moments of the work of the conference. You want solid reporting on this, click on Editor & Publisher and poke around the magazine’s search engine with words like “columnists” for Dave Astor’s reports.
Derrick Z. Jackson of The Boston Globe recalled one of his early, good editors advising him when starting to write a piece to tune in a jazz radio station and form the “gist of your piece in one sentence. You get one comma.” Continue reading