The second day of the NSNC conference opened with breakfast in the beautiful Magnolia Room of the Macon Marriott where columnists heard from humorist speaker, author, and columnist Lauretta Hannon, the Cracker Queen, who told about her childhood and how she has overcome adversity and poverty with a sense of humor and a memoir about her off-beat family and their antics.
Nancy Grace, CNN legal analyst and author held the conference spellbound with the story of her background in Macon and how she decided to stand up and make a difference after her finance was murdered. Columnists saw the human side of Nancy Grace as she explained how she went into law because she want to help crime victims and told about her early career as a young attorney when Atlanta was the murder capital of the country. She says that she put violent offenders in jail because the laws already on the books for rehab of dope, alcohol, and juvenile offenders are not funded. To make a difference, she thinks we must provide rehabilitation while offenders are still juveniles. As a commentator, Nancy believes in asking hard questions to get to the truth and that no task can be completed if you listen to criticism.
Tom Johnson, former CNN president, publisher of the Dallas Times-Herald and Los Angeles Times, spoke about how the demise of newspapers has reduced the number of working reporters. He thinks mean radio commentators and partisan news commentators are causing the nation to become badly divided. Columnists can provoke people to think, he observed. We have a responsibility to bring order out of the chaos existing today, he believes. He urged columns not to only criticize the bad, but to praise excellence as well. Columnist have a broader reach now than every through the Internet and social media. Johnson concluded that columnists matter and should never believe they are not making a difference.
Following the morning of thought-provoking commentary, the columnist adjourned to a lighter afternoon with lunch in Washington Park and a trolley tour of Macon highlighting its music heritage and charming architecture.
In the evening, conference attendees were transported by trolley to the Hay House, a historic mansion, where they were entertained by string music courtesy of the Mercer School of Music among antique furnishings under under crystal chandeliers in antibellum splendor.
In spirited bidding, NSNC member, Cappy Hall Rearick, was the highest bidder in an auction for a tour of CNN and a TV appearance as the guest of Nancy Grace. This item was generously donated by CNN legal analysist and TV commentator Nancy Grace. All proceeds from the auction will go to the NSNC Education Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides student scholarships.
The Will Rogers Humanitarian Award was presented to Mike Masterson, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, by special guest, Josh Rogers Leuty, great grandson of Will Rogers. In acceptance Mr. Masterson read a column that he wrote about Will Rogers after finding that he was the recipient of the award.
Special guest, Gail Collins, New York Times, was presented with the Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award and spoke briefly about her amazing career as a journalist and author. After her acceptance, she generously assisted in presenting the NSNC Column Writing Awards.
Be sure to visit the columnists Facebook page to view photos of the conference and http://twitter.com/@NSNCgroup at Twitter. Conference Photography by Larry Largion Najera, Macon GA 478.475.9414 http://www.najeradesign.com Will Rogers Award & Gail Collins Award photos by Suzette Martinez Standring.