This page was current during summer 2016; AOJ is merging into the American Society of News Editors by Jan. 1, 2017.
All Masthead material from this site has been copied to the ASNE server ASNE.org and will begin to be available to members, and possibly the public, during 2017. This server aoj.wildapricot.org will continue as reference only until about December 2017.
Index to recent and past articles
Contents of this evergreen column:
Some recent articles may may still appear low on the Home page.
The Masthead has been published as a prime professional-educational journal for more than 50 years.
It was a quarterly from soon after the start of the National Conference of Editorial Writers in 1947 until the slick black-and-white print product gave way to economics and digital conversion in 2009.
For decades, it was available only by membership or by subscriptions (including those paid by several academic, research, and public libraries). It became free online in 2012 when NCEW became AOJ. A few of its additional resources have been limited to signed-in AOJ members.
During the 2014 transitions of management services and online presence, previous materials from 2009 to mid-2014 were archived onto this site. Some articles from pre-2009 paper issues are being sold by an Amazon affiliate, NOT by AOJ, online. The broker for this pre-2011 deal reports small royalties to AOJ.
Academic journal index services cited Masthead articles of the 1970s-1990s and some research libraries still have paper copies or microform. Masthead articles from October 2001 to October 2009, and references to Masthead, NCEW, or AOJ in books and other publications from 1948 to 2013 are available on EBSCO or other academic-library services via log-in from many public libraries or educational institutions. Details.
More than 440 articles and texts and hundreds of images from the NCEW-AOJ website site have been downloaded and archived on this site (http://opinionjournalists.org/masthead which is also http://aoj.wildapricot.org/masthead -- this page)
All available texts or previously web-published materials since 2009 are on this site; some from before summer 2014 are oddly formatted because of different web-servers' coding standards. As of August 2016, we anticipate that much of this material will move to the Opinion area of ASNE.org soon after Sept. 14, 2016.
The (Google-based) site search tool atop every page can find many of the articles or authors by keyword search.
The Archives links in the index of this page lead to indexes of the 2009-2015 Masthead articles. The index also links the the still-developing 2016 series.
--John McClelland, editor
(posted 10/22/2014; updated 8/9/2016)
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Back issues, old articles, other archives via library webs
With online log-in via your public library or an educational institution, you can find Masthead articles from October 2001 to October 2009 and book citations back to 1948.
They are in the searchable EBSCO database by academic librarians. For each Masthead article, there is an abstract with a link to a PDF file of the original. EBSCO indexes more than 1,000 items referring to NCEW or Masthead or AOJ. Those include references in books from 1948 to 2013, and eight years of Masthead articles. The book items are bibliographic only.
I used a longish Boolean search string (below) in my college library site, but that might not be necessary.
("Masthead") AND (("NCEW") OR ("National Conference of Editorial Writers"))
Here is one condensed example of the online summary:
Crafting a future for NCEW.
Authors: Kazakoff, Lois
Abstract: The article focuses on the plans and events that took place on the National Conference of Editorial Writers (NCEW) in 2009 in the U.S. It states that in the midst of the challenges facing NCEW, including decline in its revenue, there was also good news such as the Pulitzer Prize award given editor Mark C. Mahoney. It cites that the executive committee of NCEW is planning to concentrate on four topics, including leadership, membership and revenues.
(From the footer of the PDF:)
By John McClelland
The term "masthead" has its roots in seafaring, as the top of a sailing ship's mast. This would be a place to display an identifying flag or signal pennant, and in some cases where lookouts or junior officers could see farthest, allowing them to help the captain better direct the ship's maneuvers.
Just as a ship's captain had best make decisions based on sound information and convey them clearly to sailors whose respect he or she has already earned, so also should editorial opinion writing (or audio-video work) be best based on solid facts and an element of civility, no matter how vigorous the disagreement or salty the language.
In periodical publishing, especially of newspapers, magazines and journals, "masthead" came to mean a place where owners, executives and top editors, or sometimes entire staffs, were listed and other sorts of information displayed.
Traditional design often lists the publisher, editor (in-chief), editorial page editor and perhaps a few other decision-makers or opinion writers in a type box on the editorial page, often at top left above the lead editorial article. Hence, The Masthead was a logical name for a publication created (1948-49) for these people and for the writers who most closely work with them.
It served the National Conference of Editorial Writers and several research libraries on paper, and was indexed in the Business Periodicals Index, until going digital 2009-2011. In 2012, the organization became the Association of Opinion Journalists, and The Masthead became accessible free online. It remained designed primarily for colleagues in the opinionizing professions. http://opinionjournalists.org/masthead (URL may expire in December 2016 as content moves to ASNE.org).
In spring 2016, the AOJ foundation's trustees voted to merge AOJ into the American Society of News Editors. The agreement is expected to become final on or soon after Sept. 14, 2016.
It includes provision for back issues of Masthead to be available to ASNE members and possibly others at http://ASNE.org and the Opinion writing or similar link. An opinion journalism committee, led by AOJ officers at first, plans to continue Masthead as an ASNE service for those who do, supervise, or aspire to opinion journalism.
Back issues of Masthead, generally 1992 to 2010, are searchable online via academic library services often available to patrons on campus or public libraries (one example in related article above). Some libraries have Masthead on paper or microform from previous decades.
Word-meanings: Here's a dictionary entry (Webster's New World, 3rd College Ed., Prentice-Hall):
"masthead (mast' hed) n. 1 the top part of a ship's mast 2 a box or section printed in each issue of a newspaper or magazine, giving the publishers, owners, and editors, the location of the offices, subscription rates, etc. 3. NAMEPLATE (sense 2) -- vt. 1 to send a sailor to the masthead as punishment 2 to hoist or display at the masthead."
Helping the less-informed distinguish 'editorial' from other journalism
Do we and the public know what is a “story,” an “article,” a “column” or an “editorial?”
The audience expects no bias or author’s opinion in a news story. If we state others’ opinions in news, we attribute them —who said it. We label opinion pieces, somehow.
We must be patient with folks who don’t know this. They may refer to objective news stories as “yer dern editorial dere on page one” or blame us for bias in someone’s letter.
So, let’s be clear on some definitions:
"editorial, news In references to a newspaper, reserve news for the news department, its employees and news articles. Reserve editorial for the department that prepares the editorial page, its employees and articles that appear on the editorial page." —Associated Press Stylebook
"Editorial is an Americanism for what the British call a leader or lead article, that is, an article expressing the views of the editor or publisher of a periodical."
"ed·i·to·ri·al n. 1.An article in a publication expressing the opinion of its editors or publishers. 2.A commentary on television or radio expressing the opinion of the station or network. adj. 1. Of or relating to an editor or editing: an editorial position … policy…. 2. Of or resembling an editorial, especially in expressing an opinion: an editorial comment. editorially adv."
The important distinctions are:
— Between relatively straight factual news accounts and all the other forms that involve some degree of opinion. One gray-area category is “news analysis.”
— Among the forms of opinion writing:
Columns, essays, letters, and articles with “attitude.” Individual views, regardless of whether the writer is staff, free-lance or unpaid contributor. Writers almost always are named in a byline, logo, or a “sig-line” like a signature on a letter.
Editorials (signed or unsigned) representing the publication. These are prepared by individuals, but may reflect the consensus of an editorial board.
Editorials may specify what they represent (“We, the Bugle editorial board …” or “We believe…” or “This page has said…”); or contain no self-references. They could even completely lack opinion (“Winter is here again.”) (Some say this sort of thing is not a good use of the forum).
Editorials may state the views of a publisher or editor who runs a publication. Often they are the views of the author, on behalf of the organization. They may state policy. They should not affect news judgment. They may appear in a constant location, often labeled “Editorials” or “Commentary” or “Forum” or “Our view” or "Opinion."
This is the challenge or opportunity you have to help educate the public:
As a noun, an “editorial” is an article, often stating an opinion or position, that is written or broadcast specifically on behalf of a media organization or its management, and technically not anything else.
Be careful in using “editorial” as an adjective.
(By John McClelland, Roosevelt University. This article may be used freely with attribution, or adapted for educational or AOJ and ASNE use with or without attribution. JRM 11/4/2013, reviewed 1/5/2015; updated 8/9/2016) (top of article) (top of page)