Monday, July 03, 2017

Weekly editors do D.C., give awards, offer critiques and hear presentations on a wide range of topics

From its early days, the group has conducted
small-group critiques of editorial pages.
Journalists from five countries got sources for health coverage, learned about the state of newspapers in Canada and a nonprofit's support of a weekly newspaper, handed out awards and critiqued each other's editorials last week at the annual conference of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors. Editors from the United States, Canada, Australia, Ireland and Nepal spent five days at the University of Maryland and in Washington, D.C., where they also toured the Newseum and the Library of Congress.

The group's main awards, the Golden Dozen for editorial writing, topped by the Golden Quill, were reported here Sunday. The group presented its Eugene Cervi Award to Bill Miller Sr., editor and publisher of The Washington Missourian for more than 60 years. Miller, 87, said he had lost advertisers because of his editorial stands, but "You've got to write editorials. That's the heart of a newspaper." Miller discussed editorial writing with Hank Waters, former editor of the Columbia Daily Tribune, at the 2015 ISWNE conference in Columbia. The 45-minute video is on the ISWNE site via YouTube:

The award, named for the late publisher of a weekly newspaper in Denver, recognizes careers of outstanding public service in community journalism that adhere to the highest standards of the craft, including the conviction that good journalism begets good government. Gateway Journalism Review profiled Miller in 2014.

The Don Brod Award, named for the only person to serve as ISWNE executive director and president, went to Bill Reader, a journalism professor at Ohio University in Athens, a specialist and researcher in community journalism and very active member of the "hotline" list-serve for ISWNE members.

Health coverage, Canadian papers, nonprofit help

The group heard from several speakers. Rob Logan of the National Library of Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, listed several useful websites, including, a gateway to information on more than 1,000 diseases and conditions, every drug and supplement, and how to sign up for clinical trials; and PubMedHealth, which reviews recent medical research and shows "the state of the art," Logan said.

Gordon Cameron talked about Canadian newspapers.
At the Newseum, the group heard from Gordon Cameron, group managing editor of Hamilton Community News, a group of four papers in the city at the west end of Lake Ontario, and past president of the Ontario Community Newspapers Association. He said most Canadian papers are making money, thanks mainly to advertising inserts, but circulation and run-of-press advertising continue to decline.

Canada's Public Policy Forum issued a "Shattered Mirror" report on the country's news media in January, saying "Real news is in crisis. Canadians need — and want — real news to make educated decisions about their governments and to keep the powerful accountable. Without it, we’ll be in the dark about our communities and our country. Without it, democracy itself is at risk." The report recommended more favorable tax treatment for news outlets, easing philanthropic support of news outlets, a fund to support digital innovation (already being done in a small way for community newspapers), a legal advisory service for small news operations (to encourage more aggressive journalism), and funding of 60 to 80 reporters for a new local service of the Canadian Press news service to provide more coverage of local governments (see Page 98 of the report). Cameron said the Canadian News Media Association has proposed tax credits for reporter salaries, "fairly broadly defined," but many publishers are wary and "concerned about the optics." Still, "Everyone agrees something needs to be done."

Nonprofit involvement in rural journalism is being pioneered by The Rappahannock News and the Foothills Forum in Rappahannock County, Virginia. The Rural Blog has reported on this project; the organizers reported that it has overcome initial skepticism. "The more we do, the more the community accepts that we don't have an agenda," said Larry "Bud" Meyer, president of the nonprofit and former vice president of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. "Some form of nonprofit partnership might work in your community."

Lucy Dalglish, dean of journalism at
Maryland, welcomed the group.
In another presentation in a Senate office building, Tonda Rush, chief lobbyist for the National Newspaper Association, urged the editors to get involved with NNA and its efforts on postal reform and other issues. "People in this building don't have any idea what you're about, and you may have more power than you realize," Rush said "The interesting thing about community newspapers in Washington is, if we can find a way to connect you, things happen."

In official business, ISWNE members changed the group's mission statement to include "support of research that improves community journalism." Some academic journalists are members, including David Gordon, a retired journalism professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, who was president in the past year. The new president is Steve Ranson of the Lahontan Valley News in Fallon, Nevada.

The organization has 283 members, 39 outside the U.S. Executive Director Chad Stebbins of Missouri Southern State University told his board of directors that membership has declined in Canada and the United Kingdom due to a decrease in the number of independent, family-owned newspapers.

The group's next conference is set for July 11-15, 2018, in Portland and McMinnville, Oregon. At least four Pulitzer Prize winners are signed up for the program, Stebbins said. It will meet in the Atlanta area in 2019, Reno in 2020 and the Montreal area in 2021. Last year's meeting was in Australia.

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