This page is current to Dec. 30, 2016; AOJ is merging into the American Society of News Editors by Jan. 1, 2017.
Index of contents linked to articles (updated 12/30/2016)
AOJ leaders' final message to members
Pulitzer honors Boston busing-race work.
Trump train plonks pundits, polls, pols...
Webinar on endorsements replay is free online.
Endorsements matter more now (essay) 10-5-16
Media groups chide Obama aide again on 'transparency'
New AOJ service: State Dept call-in briefing on Oceans
Book finds multiple 'lost' generations of journalists (9/9)
State Department briefing
Sunshine Week: Can the First Amendment survive in the new information age? (displayed on the AOJ-Sunshine page)
Staff cutbacks: How newspapers handle daily local editorials with smaller, often one-person, editorial page staffs. (Feb 25)
President's message to the members on future planning 2/9/16*
Planning update to the members 4/9/16*
*= PDF document will open or download depending on browser
This page will grow as new articles are posted.
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(posted 2/22/2016 updated 5/26/16 JM)
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Masthead Fall-Winter 2016
December 22, 2016
From David Haynes,
Dear [Member or Associate],
This is, no doubt, bittersweet for many of you. It is for me:
As of Dec. 31, the Association of Opinion Journalists (National Conference of Editorial Writers, 1947-2012) ends and we conclude our merger into the American Society of News Editors.
As a member of the ASNE board, I am firmly committed to ensuring that the spirit of AOJ – of nurturing and training opinion journalists – remains alive.
To that end, ASNE’s new Opinion Committee has given itself several goals for 2017. Among them: develop programming for next year’s ASNE convention, Oct. 8-11 in Washington, D.C.; develop more webinars; plan and execute the annual State Department Briefing (likely in conjunction with the convention in the fall); and develop a mentorship program for new opinion editors and writers.
The committee will be meeting soon after the first of the year to get to work on these ideas.
A few nuts and bolts:
Finally, a good word about ASNE leadership. Teri Hayt, the executive director, and Mizell Stewart, the current president, could not have been more welcoming. And ASNE staff, co-located near Investigative Reporters and Editors on the University of Missouri campus in Columbia, has been highly cooperative and effective.
In addition to my position on the board, our diversity chair, Richard Prince, is becoming part of the ASNE diversity committee. And our transition committee co-chairs, Nancy Ancrum and Jennifer Hemmingsen, are now chairing the ASNE Opinion Committee. If you are interested in being part of the ongoing opinion journalism working group in ASNE, please let them know.
These are challenging times for all of us but I am convinced that we made a sound decision to merge with ASNE. Now, it’s up to us to make the most of it.
(Circulated to 250-plus contacts Dec. 22; posted here Dec. 30, 2016)
The work that earned the 2015 commentary award to Farah Stockman was underwritten by the $75,000 Pulliam Fellowship in editorial and opinion writing, from the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation (SPJ). It is presented annually at an event of the Association of Opinion Journalists.
http://opinionjournalists.org/pulliam2014 (story and short video)
The 2015 award given at AOJ Symposium mentioned the Stockman series. More on Pulliams and AOJ
(posted 4/19/2016 JM; reposted 12/30/2016)
By John McClelland
(Posted Nov. 9, 2016)
The Trump train ran right past way too many prognosticators.
Talking-heads-tut-tutting on TV and a lot of the traffic on sites cited in journalism newsletters such as Poynter's and Nieman's daily briefings have been about this.
One recurring theme seems to be that all elites have been too long overlooking the legitimate, frustrated, scared, angry populace that Trump attracted.
That would include ignoring non-college white males (and females, despite the first-ever woman major candidacy) in rural or economically distressed areas, for example. There also was some pooh-poohing of party loyalty, and a lot of underestimating the energy of wing-nuts, Klanners, NRA, plutocrats, and such, and overestimating turnout by former Obama fans. Political tactics and strategies aside, what also became more clear is the vast extent of social-educational-ethnic-economic divides in the land.
Polling's perils have long been known, and yet it gets horse-race attention even when way off the track. 'Nuf said for now.
Another concern is the risk to our country and the world from the declining influence of responsible, professional, established media in the Babel-esque world of social media. It is particularly important in the now-common 364.9-day year of poisonous partisanship. In that fraction of a day when Trump sounded most open to cooperation and the losers said we all need to help him lead, there was a hint of hope, if....
One person filling TV time in the Nov. 9 wee hours (my alibi for not getting a name) quoted a voter who chose the evil outsider over the evil long-time insider, and another who said he despises Trump but voted for him "because he is not one of THEM."
Journalistic mass media people are largely well-educated and earnest, but still too-male and too-white, and they appear to millions of our fellow citizens rather like shyster bankers, scammers, people of color, immigrants, and C.o.n.g.r.e.s.s. An ill-chosen, overly broad, ungrammatical term "the media is" and the high-profile misconduct of too many have unfairly tarred the image of the traumatized, talented, conscientious, real journalists.
We must act. We are too widely perceived as part of "THEM."
(c) 2016 John McClelland and Association of Opinion Journalists (becoming part of the American Society of News Editors ASNE.org at the end of 2016). Members may republish with minimal attribution. All other non-fair-use reproduction is prohibited without written consent.
John McClelland, emeritus faculty (retired)
Roosevelt University, Chicago
editing Masthead and some web stuff
for AOJ http://aoj.wildapricot.org
By John McClelland
This national election is raising anew some enduring questions of whether editorial endorsements matter or even should be done. They do and they should.
It is a year of change. Of the first 37 daily newspapers whose presidential endorsements were tallied on one website, 23 had changed from the partisan position they took in 2012.
Huge numbers of people are committed one way or the other and will not be swayed by mere mass media. Many young adults do not read legacy media on paper or phones.
But how about helping the undecided? Or the level of motivation to vote? Well-reasoned commentary can have an effect. How about “telling the truth-as-we-see-it” and letting the chips fall?
In some state and local elections, endorsement can be decisive as an antidote to ignorance or as fodder for TV ads. How many citizens have first-hand exposure to judicial candidates, for example? Journalists do, and many editorial boards invest hundreds of hours in learning about candidates and interviewing them in-person.
Scores of opinion editors I know take seriously their roles as advisers to the public. Some invest yet more time in helping their counterparts elsewhere.
Yes, they are largely white, collegiate, mostly male, and aging. Their pages present a wide spectrum of views, but still critics say they are not sufficiently in touch with minorities, the disaffected and others. Some remain habitually liberal or conservative on nearly everything.
Editorial boards have no influence on news operations, but they examine the facts that reporters dig up. They strive to be open-minded.
Some have debated whether endorsing (or “recommending”) is worth the huge effort. One group’s near-consensus: We have access to information and candidates that most voters do not, especially locally; we must use it. One group even discussed when to retract a position, and when to hold our noses and back the lesser doofus.
Most opinion editors put public well-being above, or at least on a par with, self-interest. Yes, they are part of an establishment fading because digital media have usurped the revenue. Yes, some are prone to status-quo-ism. Some back liberals and others oppose big government. But they all care.
My early 1960s mentor Bob Sink’s advice: We cannot tell the people how to vote, only advise. We can provoke them to think. We can affect a close race ("for dog-catcher" he said in jest).
At polling places, people in line had cut out our summary and marked it up. Were they voting for, or against, our recommendations? Both.
Fast forward to September 2016: academic economist Agustin Casas found that “surprise endorsements,” unlike the predictable ones, can have an effect beyond the common reinforcement of existing views.
This has already been a year for unexpected recommendations.
Of 37 daily newspaper presidential endorsement editorials tallied by Tuesday night (Oct. 4), 23 did not stay with the partisan position (or non-position in 5 cases) that they took in 2012. Six published “no-endorsement” editorials. Six went for Libertarian Gary Johnson. And USA Today ended a 34-year tradition of not recommending.
Among sites that track presidential endorsements are:
Endorsements often differ from voting. Newspapers hugely opposed Franklin D. Roosevelt, and he won big. But opinion editors are not bookies picking winners; they have something to say beyond “vote thus.”
The Chicago Tribune came out for Libertarian Gary Johnson to rebuke both major parties: “How did pandering to aggrieved niche groups and seducing blocs of angry voters replace working toward solutions…?”
Among those that switched were the Arizona Republic: “1890...Never ... This year is different.” Detroit News “never done in its 143-year history.” Cincinnati Enquirer: first “in generations.”
The Dallas Morning News backed its first Democratic presidential candidate since the Depression. Editor Mike Wilson (who spoke about doing a turnaround to digital at AOJ Symposium 2015) faced protesters and subscription cancellations. He said, and was widely quoted, praised, and vilified online for it: “We write our editorials based on principle, and sometimes principle comes at a cost.”
The Chicago Sun-Times stopped endorsing before 2012 but resumed in 2014 when it saw a severe crisis in state government.
The Houston Chronicle switched, according to Conor Friedersdorf in Atlantic. He also wrote of public figures who switch: “I’d never tell anyone to defer to their arguments, but do hear them out.”
That’s good advice for readers of endorsement editorials, wherever you stand on the major candidates, or the gerrymandered state legislative districts, or your town’s dog-catcher.
Hear them out.
John McClelland, writing here just for himself, edits Masthead. A former reporter-photographer and editor in the Midwest and Mid-South, he is retired from teaching journalism at Roosevelt University in Chicago.
(Another version of this article is being distributed by InsideSources, an independent purveyor of op-ed material to 300 newspapers, since 2014. http://www.insidesources.com
(Posted Oct. 5, 2016)