An Open Letter
The following material is preserved from the original AOJ website as of December 2016 and should be considered historical.
An open letter on the benefits of AOJ membership
Dear Opinion Journalist,
We are witnessing a changing industry. Gone are days when we could just pick an issue, write an editorial or a column, select a few syndicated pieces, and put our pages to bed.
Nowadays, we’re called on to do much more. Blog. Tweet. Post on Facebook. Promote and develop “the brand.” Keep up on the vast amount of opinion on the Web; aggregate it, summarize it, weave it together and make sense of it and present it for comments from readers. Engage the community; host Web meetings and community forums. Incorporate video and interactivity. Keep the print pages dynamic. Develop original, local content and writers. Find ways to repurpose Web content for the print page.
Oh, and do all that, and more, with shrinking staffs and budgets.
Exhausting? Sometimes. Challenging? Constantly.
So where do you go to take a step back from the day-to-day crunch and think – not about the next deadline, but about the big picture? To see what others in this very specialized segment of the journalism business are doing? To get an objective opinion? To ask questions, toss around ideas? To find out what works with readers, and what flops? To develop your craft?
For 67 years, the Association of Opinion Journalists (formerly the National Conference of Editorial Writers), has served as the meeting place for people on the opinion side of the news business – editors, editorial writers, columnists, educators, students.
Here’s what the AOJ offers:
- Annual AOJ Symposium:
The highlight of the year, the NCEW convention, now AOJ symposium, historically has been held in different cities around the country, bringing AOJ members together for about three days of intensive seminars, lectures and discussions, as well as informative presentations on issues, technology, and writing.
The 2014 symposium was Sept. 21-23, 2014, in Mobile, Alabama. It had a look at Southern politics, international business, voting rights, the Gulf Coast ecology and evolving culture, and a lot about journalism. And folks could enjoy what’s affectionately know as the Redneck Riviera. The 2015 AOJ Symposium was held Nov. 14-15 at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida.
- State Department briefing: Held each spring, this event provides exclusive access to top State Department officials for members to gain invaluable, first-hand insight into U.S. foreign policy. The 2015 briefing was held April 27.
- The AOJ Google Group. Through the AOJ discussion list, members share "best practices" and discuss innovative ways to handle content and deal with the day-to-day task of running an opinion shop. It’s a great, 24/7 resource for members looking for advice and input on the fly, on anything from page design or a new initiative to help in identifying suspicious “turf” letters, those annoying pre-fab letters that plague letters pages.
- AOJ Website. AOJ’s pages contain a wealth of industry articles, symposium coverage, member news and blogs, written by people on the front lines. It also provides practical members-only benefits. Those include access to the membership directory. In the past, it included a job bank; we anticipate renewing this service in partnership with Poynter. AOJ strives to promote truth, logic and fairness in editorial writing, and in community or civic discourse, and the art of argumentation in general.
- Opinion Journalism Contest (temporarily suspended late 2014-early 2015). These awards have recognized the achievements of editorial writers, columnists and staffs through the Opinion Journalist of the Year awards and the Top Opinion Pages awards.
- Low Membership Fees. AOJ strives to keep dues low to make membership affordable for opinion editors and writers across all media to join the organization. Most members pay a flat rate of $75 per year; retirees pay $45 and students $25.
Here's a link to do it: http://aoj.wildapricot.org/join-us
In our humble opinion, it’s the best investment you can make in your career.
"AOJ membership is like having dozens of smart, funny colleagues ready to assist or commiserate as the situation demands. The organization made me a better writer and editor, and made the work much more fulfilling."
--Michael Zuzel, co-editor, "Beyond Argument: A Handbook for Editorial Writers"
“As a broadcaster who experienced the merger, both by bylaw and in practice, of broadcast and print and then online opinion writers, I can attest to the breadth of knowledge and support the organization offers in its mission of promoting professional opinion writing at its best. AOJ is the place to find both experienced practitioners as well as fellow novices exploring the best platforms and methods of delivery of editorials and commentary.”
--Neil Heinen, editorial director, WISC TV/ Madison Magazine
“The online discussion list of the National Conference of Editorial Writers, now AOJ, has been the most consistently collegial, constructive and "flame"-free of the several pro- and academic lists I have been on since the genre was developing in the 1980s.”
--John McClelland, emeritus (retired) journalism faculty, Roosevelt University, Chicago