Stepping Down – Suzette Standring

By Suzette Martinez Standring, NSNC Past President

Suzette Martinez StandringSpring Greetings! Later this month, our 2006 Boston conference (June 30-July 2, 2006) will convene in Red Sox Nation, and the response has been record-breaking. Our room block at the Omni Parker House is full. If you have Boston-based friends or family, now’s the time to show up with a sleeping bag. Our speakers’ lineup of award-winning columnists won’t be found anywhere else.

On July 2, I’ll be stepping down from my two-year post as Madame President, or as member George Smith so poetically dubbed me, High Priestess of the NSNC Nation.

We’ve continued in our tradition of change and collegiality, but it hasn’t been without its dark moments when a number of columnist-related scandals rocked our industry.

I found myself thrust to the forefront as a spokesperson about violations that included “bought” opinions and fabricated columns. By nature, I’m not comfortable with finger pointing or pronouncing judgments.

But this was easy.

Why? The abuses were clear-cut. Lying, special favors or paid-on-demand editorials demand denouncement. It comes down to an issue of character. Ours.

“Character” is not a politically correct place to go, since it is fraught with moral implications and subjective arguments. It begs the question, “Who the heck are you?”

I’ll tell you who we are — professionals of integrity penning independently founded, factual views. We toil daily in an honest manner to earn a reader’s trust. Despite the great potential for frugal living, we do what we do because making a positive difference is our chosen priority.

I have no wish to re-tether anyone to the whipping post. Instead, I will emphasize the soul-refreshing aspects of NSNC colleagues for whom column-writing is both a privilege and sacred duty.

Our Boston program will sparkle with the gems of our profession. An exciting update is that Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is again a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her “pungent, clear-eyed columns that tackled controversial issues with frankness and fortitude,” described by the Pulitzer Prize Board. Tucker will speak to us in Boston on “Women and Editorial Writing.”

With her on that program will be Maura Casey, formerly with The Day (CT), who will be The New York Times’ Connecticut correspondent and columnist as of May 7.

In a recent interview with Editor and Publisher, keynoter Arianna Huffington commented on the NSNC and our Boston program, “It’s a great group of people and I love the opportunity to discuss all the ways in which we are all working to integrate new and old media.”

The talent and good faith the NSNC represents in our industry is represented by all our speakers: Derrick Jackson, Alex Jones, Rochelle Riley, Javier Marin, Tony Messenger, Joan Venocchi, Sheila Lennon, Bill Tammeus, J. Michael Robertson, Lisa McManus, D. C. Dennison, Mike Morin and Christopher Kenneally.

Launching a conference is a major barn-raising, so special thanks to Executive Director Luenna Kim and Boston Co-Chairs and speakers Terry Marotta and Tom Regan.

The NSNC board members are the unsung heroes who steer this ship with guidance and time. Every single one of them has taken up a laboring oar for the NSNC, so please thank them: Vice-President Mike Argento; Secretary Bob Haught; Newsletter Editor Michele Marr; Web Editor Sheila Buska; NSNC Contest Chair Jeff Zaslow; Education Chair Russell Frank; Treasurer Jim Boughton; Archivist Ben Pollock, former Membership Chair Melissa Baumann; new Membership Chair Samantha Bennett; and Immediate Past President Mike Leonard.

We will pay special tribute to our lifetime achievement award winner Art Buchwald on July 1. As many of you know, I traveled to his hospice in Washington, D.C. on February 28 to give him his award. Recently, reports say his condition has improved and he is writing again! Yes, long may he run.

Art was tickled to know a 40-member gospel choir will rock the house on awards night in his honor. (Who knows? Maybe he’ll come!)

In looking over the past two years, I an proud of the marketing alliance the NSNC has forged with the highly respected Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop of the University of Dayton, as well as the completion of the first-ever columnists’ demographic survey. The NSNC partnered with the University of San Francisco in a joint effort, and Dr. J. Michael Robertson will be on hand in Boston to unveil the results.

Two years have flown by, and in less than two months, I’ll relinquish the gavel. The High Priestess of the NSNC Nation can’t wait … to see you in Boston, that is! 

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