- Annual conference, now Symposium
This began with the original gathering of the founders of the National Conference of Editorial Writers in 1947. It grew into a professional association convention of more than three days, with programs on both tradecraft and current public issues, plus other activity in support of the NCEW Foundation (then AOJ Foundation in 2012, and now AOJ).
That pattern continues under the Foundation, and with a sharper professional-education focus and new name (Symposium) in 2014-15.
Until digital media drew audience and advertising revenue from the members' employers, there was stiff competition between cities vying to be the site and pitching their bids to the membership's annual meeting.
In recent years, the officers and directors of the professional association, and now beginning with 2015 the officers and trustees of the AOJ Foundation, have negotiated conference sites. Host city journalism organizations and national foundations still sometimes provide financial or logistical assistance.
The 2015 Symposium is scheduled for Nov. 14-15 on the campus of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida. Poynter became AOJ's partner and business manager in February 2015 and the two organizations teamed up for events in D.C. in April.
Articles summarizing many of the programs at recent conferences are in blocks on the Masthead pages of this website; the 2014 report is on the Symposium 2014 page, and new information plus registration links will be on the Events pages during the advance period.
Advance information about AOJ Symposium 2015 is available to members who log in and follow the index links. Potential presenters or donors may contact the AOJ Foundation president and conference chairman 2015, David Haynes, at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (firstname.lastname@example.org) or development trustee Carolyn Lumsden (email@example.com) at the Hartford Courant.
- Minority Writers Seminar
The Association of Opinion Journalists Foundation (formerly the National Conference of Editorial Writers Foundation) established the Minority Writers Seminar in 1996 to increase diversity among opinion writers at newspapers and radio and television stations.
Held annually in Nashville, Tennessee, the seminar has provided an opportunity for experienced minority journalists to explore the nuts-and-bolts of opinion writing as a possible career move. In 2000, the Seminar also became a "boot camp" for those who have been writing opinions less than a year. (For 2015-16 information, see the MWS page)
Within weeks after the first seminar in 1996, one of the graduates landed a position as an editorial writer. And the success of the seminar continues.
Limited, unscientific research indicates 20 to 25% of those attending the seminar are now writing editorials or columns professionally.
At the hands-on workshop, participants attend mock editorial board meetings and write two editorials, one of which is usually on a First Amendment issue. The faculty, veteran AOJ members who contribute their time to prepare for and attend the seminar at their expense, then critique the editorials.
The four-day seminar also features nationally known speakers and panel discussions with minority journalists who have made successful moves to opinion writing.
Lodging and food at the seminar are covered; participants provide only a portion of their own transportation costs to and from the site.
Participants are selected through a nationwide application process. Information and the application form are posted several months before the event.
Since its inception, First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University and the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute at Vanderbilt University have been AOJ Foundation's partners, providing their facilities in the John Seigenthaler Center at no cost. Beginning with the 2015 edition, the seminar partner is the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida. In addition to the AOJ Foundation, the seminar is funded by contributions from individuals, newspapers, and foundations.
- The Masthead
Foundation contributions helped publish this magazine containing professional development articles, essays, surveys and a host of educational and professional material. For decades, it was a quarterly on slick paper that went to opinion writers, academic libraries, and journalism faculty and students nationwide. Available via NCEW membership or library subscription for most of its life, Masthead went online during 2010-11 and became free on the Web in 2012.
Some supplementary materials are available only to members.
Although the tradition of collecting and indexing the articles quarterly continues, timely material is posted promptly, sometimes more than once a day. This is one of our bread-and-butter programs that helps editors and columnists who may never be able to get to conferences. The publication is a credit to our industry. Some of its articles share with the industry and the public the gist of otherwise free-wheeling semi-private discussions on the members' discussion list.
- State Department Briefing (a.k.a. seminar)
This all-day event in at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C., gives editorial writers and other AOJ members, and occasional guest journalists, the opportunity to meet firsthand with high-level diplomats. It has proven very popular with our organization and the State Department. It was previously held at the beginning of the year but recently has moved to April. The only fee to the attendee barely covers the cost of a lunch, and assistance with travel cost has been available. For 2015, the travel stipend for AOJ members was again $200.
Extensive reports from the State Department briefings of 2012 and since appear in The Masthead online archives.
- Foreign Travel for Editorial Research
Large grants from the MacArthur Foundation and the German Marshall Fund enabled editorial writers to visit foreign countries at sharply reduced costs in past years. But these grants have run out and we are seeking new funding sources. The program was especially helpful to editors from mid-size newspapers, who might otherwise be unable to go. Previous trips were to China, Mexico, and the Middle East (especially in the Arab countries.) These were comprehensive trips usually involving access to high-level officials and practical access to ordinary citizens. Recent discussions of future destinations also focused on Cuba.
- Seminars for College Students
These are held in conjunction with the national convention or symposium wherever we can make connections with college journalism faculty locally. We also participate in an editorial writing session for college editors nationwide at Columbia University.
- Barry Bingham Senior Fellowship
This program brings to our national convention or symposium an outstanding faculty member who has shown great initiative in mentoring minority college students. The faculty member receives an award for career-long contributions to minority students. We pay the costs for the educator's travel to the event and attempt to help the educator with projects he or she may want to do. Information about recent winners is in the The Masthead online archives circa 2010 and since. The Bingham award is administered by AOJ's Diversity Committee, which now has its own page on our website.