Short Takes, A Tall Order

President’s Message

This column originally was published in the March 2014 edition of The Columnist, the members’ newsletter of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.

By Eric Heyl
National Society of Newspaper Columnists

Eric Heyl

Eric Heyl

ITEM! When facing a tight deadline or lacking a topic of particular gravitas, some columnists occasionally resort to a “notes” column, in which a series of unrelated or loosely connected tidbits is strung together until sufficient space is filled and the columnist can enjoy the happy hour beverage of his or her choice guilt-free.

I don’t recommend doing this often, as readers eventually will presume that you’re just attempting to quickly fill sufficient space so you can slink off to the bar. However, a notes column is permissible when it represents the only viable alternative to white space.

On a personal note, I’m grateful that I’ve never been desperate enough to resort to a notes column.

• • •

ITEM! As noted elsewhere in the newsletter, the contest deadline has been extended from March 15 to April 1.

The extension is a direct result of so many of you emailing me with messages that essentially said, “Please, sire, I beseech you — give me more time to peruse my 2013 columns so that I may guarantee that only my very best work is submitted for thine most glorious contest.”

I asked the board to approve your request, because all of you have been worthy and loyal subjects of the NSNC kingdom. Now go get those entries in while you bask in my benevolence.

• • •

ITEM! The contest winners will receive their awards, and the big bucks that go with them, at the NSNC’s annual conference. This spectacular event will occur June 26-29 in Washington, D.C., at the Washington Plaza Hotel.

Among the incredible array of speakers we have lined up are John Avlon, Mary Curtis, Rhonda Graham, Llewellyn King, Dana Milbank, Alexandra Petri, Richard Prince, Connie Schultz, Suzette Martinez Standring, Craig Wilson and Michele Wojciechowski, whose last name I am almost certain to mangle when I try to pronounce it. We’ll also be presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to the very deserving Gene Weingarten of The Washington Post.

Trust me on this – if you miss this conference, you’re going to be a glum chum until the 2015 soiree. So register for this sucker today.

• • •

IBM Selectric II typewriterITEM! You might have heard the recent revelation that the Media Research Center’s Brent Bozell doesn’t actually write the columns that appear under his name. If you haven’t heard, you can familiarize yourself with the details on the Romenesko website posting here. The reason why such conduct is wrong should be obvious: as a columnist, you want the reader to hear your distinct voice and opinions, not those of some anonymous underling who resents you for affixing your name and mug to his work.

This situation is extremely regrettable because it was so easily avoidable. If Bozell truly was out of time or ideas, he didn’t have to assign the work to someone else.

He could have just quickly banged out a notes column.

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  2 comments for “Short Takes, A Tall Order

  1. March 20, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Watchdog, methinks El Presidente is exercising that wonderful column writing trait of …irony. Either that of he has totally lost it.

  2. March 17, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Doh. Hate to break it to you Mr. President but this dang thing right here is a notes column.

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