Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Columnists to Hear Bill O'Reilly, Dave Barry, Others at Confab

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Columnists to Hear Bill O'Reilly, Dave Barry, Others at Confab

Article excerpt

What do writing a good column and planning a good columnists conference have in common? Research.

When Philadelphia Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky was considering speakers for this week's Thursday-Sunday National Society of Newspaper Columnists conference, he studied the results of a 2006 survey of NSNC members. Among the findings was that about a third of NSNCers described themselves as humor writers. "And humor writers regard Dave Barry as God, so I reached out to him," said Bykofsky, the organization's 2007 conference chair.

Barry, whose former Miami Herald/ Tribune Media Services (TMS) column ran in about 500 papers, agreed to speak this Friday morning -- and attend a conference-opening dinner reception this Thursday evening.

Bykofsky also realized the NSNC had a number of specialty-columnist members, so he got Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan to also speak on Friday morning.

That was two Pulitzer Prize winners right there. A third Pulitzer recipient, Chicago Tribune/TMS opinion columnist Clarence Page, will speak and receive the NSNC's Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award this Saturday evening.

But meeting in a city like Philadelphia can be a bit pricey for some columnists, so Bykofsky wanted another "really big name" to attract attendees. His wife suggested Bill O'Reilly, the Fox News host who also writes a column for Creators Syndicate.

Bykofsky noted that O'Reilly often lambastes print journalists, so he challenged the commentator to do that in person. "He agreed within 48 hours," recalled the Daily News staffer. "I think he's eager to come here, look us in the eye, and raise hell." O'Reilly is speaking Friday morning, too.

The conference will also have sessions on avoiding ethical problems, creating video columns, doing column research, and making the leap from columns to books.

"Buried in every columnist's heart is the thought: 'If John Grogan can do it, I can do it,'" said Bykofsky, referring to the now-former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist who authored the best-selling "Marley & Me."

Bykofsky, who joined the Daily News in 1972, added that the research session will have something for the computer-savvy and not-so-computer-savvy as panelists discuss finding information digitally in addition to "shoe-leather" reporting. …

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