Magazine article The Masthead

NCEW: It Wasn't Always like This: The Convention Evolved as the Membership Evolved

Magazine article The Masthead

NCEW: It Wasn't Always like This: The Convention Evolved as the Membership Evolved

Article excerpt

The NCEW that convened in Pittsburgh this year was vastly different from the NCEW in Washington more than two decades ago, when I attended my first convention.

For one thing, that NCEW was overwhelmingly male, dominated by older white guys. (What we now call the "spouse tour" was then the "wives' tour.")

For another, NCEW was nothing like the open, welcoming group it seems to be today. Socialization after the evening event meant every man for himself--unless you were one of the few who received a written invitation to his suite from the president.

And, like many other organizations then and now, the only members truly active were those able to attend the annual convention. That's where NCEW's business was transacted--there and the two other board meetings per year. Non-conventiongoers didn't participate, and since there was no absentee ballot, had no chance to vote.

The changes largely reflect changes in our profession. If NCEW was male-dominated, it was because newsrooms were. And the reason most members were older males was because, traditionally, editorial writers were veterans assigned to the think tank as a reward for years of, notebook in hand, chasing cops.

When newsrooms were diversified, the only women and non-whites on the staff were younger because until then, they'd been underrepresented. Adding some to the editorial board, required for diversification and expansion of views, lowered the organization's median age.

I don't know the male/female ratio in NCEW today, but I suspect it's almost parity. What's more, women have moved into leadership positions. (Ten of the last twenty-five presidents have been female.)

Looking around in Pittsburgh, it was obvious that nonwhites remain a small minority, but much more than before. Chuck Stokes of Detroit is a recent past president, and Vanessa Gallman of Lexington, Kentucky, is in line to be the first president who is both African American and female. …

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