Magazine article Editor & Publisher

At Nsnc: The Making of a President, 2002

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

At Nsnc: The Making of a President, 2002

Article excerpt

Mike Leonard gets drafted to head the National Society of Newspaper Columnists after many years as member

Mike Leonard had been a loyal member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for 15 years when NSNC leaders started talking about him behind his back in 2000. But they weren't saying negative things.

"They decided they wanted someone with deep roots in the group to become vice president and then president two years later," Leonard recalled. "I knew nothing about it!"

He knows plenty about it now, as the columnist for the Herald-Times of Bloomington, Ind., recently became president of the 400-member organization.

The NSNC was started in 1977 by a group of white men. Today, as America's columnists have diversified in ethnicity and gender, NSNC leadership reflects this. Leonard noted that Vice President Suzette Martinez Standring of the Milton (Mass.) Times is Filipino American, Treasurer Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is African American, Executive Director Luenna Kim is of Korean heritage, and 2003 Conference Chair Ernesto Portillo Jr. of the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson is of Hispanic descent.

"Somehow we've ended up with a very diverse group," said Leonard, who is very pleased with this development.

Diversity will be one discussion theme at the NSNC's next annual conference, slated for June 19-22 in Tucson. The NSNC is also holding an "Ethics and Excellence in Column Writing" seminar Nov. 1-3 in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

But meetings are only part of what Leonard and the NSNC do. Defending columnists is another. For instance, he issued a strong statement criticizing the San Francisco Chronicle's actions in ending Stephanie Salter's column ("Syndicate World," E&P Online, Sept. 9).

"We don't presume to deny publishers and editors the right to manage their newspapers as they see fit," said Leonard. "But we're not going to give up our First Amendment right to say we don't agree with decisions."

Leonard did agree with the Chicago Tribune's recent decision to ask Bob Greene to resign after Greene admitted having sexual contact with a high-school girl in 1988. Leonard noted that, since reports indicate the girl approached the newspaper for help with a journalism project, the situation wasn't strictly a personal matter and thus the Tribune had the right to make an ethics ruling about it. …

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