NSNC . . .
Sounds a bit like some sort of secret government agency, right?
What it is is the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and while we are not a government agency, a good part of our membership knows a lot more than Congress or Mr. Obama on how the government should be run.
The reason I know that is for a few days in July, we columnists gather to again re-invent our profession, including the reminder that the major difference between a columnist and a journalist is “We columnists don’t have to stick to the danged old facts.”
This conference here, if nothing else, says that we’ve come a long way.
The story of the NSNC’s birth is that a few columnists gathered in a Virginia Beach bar back in 1977. After a good bit of elbow bending and a lot of complaining about the lack of pay and respect for their trade, it was decided to organize.
This is our 34th annual conference.
We call it a “conference” because bosses tend to think that if you’re at a “convention,” well, you’re still elbow bending and complaining about lack of respect and payday.
I wasn’t at that first one back in ’77, but sitting in a conference room at the Biddle Hotel on the Indiana University campus, it occurred to me “we” have come a long way. Provost Karen Houston (boss of the Bloomington campus) made a few welcoming remarks, noting that “this is the first time, I believe, you have ever met on a university campus.”
Some might think you’ll learn more in a Virginia Beach bar, but you have to be impressed that we were right in the middle of high academia. The mayor also came by to say hello and welcome to Bloomington.
One thing I couldn’t help but notice. In all the things (or people) for which Bloomington and IU are famous, neither mentioned Bobby Knight. In case you’re a soccer fan and don’t know diddly about basketball, Knight was the Hoosier coach for 28 years.
During that time Knight brought honor and fame to himself as well as IU. In brief, he won three NCAA titles, four Big 10s, one NIT, was National Coach of the Year four times and Big 10 six times.
But “The General,” as he was often called, also had a perchance for bringing infamy as well as shame on IU as well as himself. He was given to throwing chairs on the floor during games, was less than gentle when a player goofed, and had an all-around nasty attitude.
So, in September of 2000, Indiana fired one of the great basketball coaches in NCAA history.
Which, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with re-inventing column writing.
We had a number of panels for that.
One that DID NOT have anything to do with better column writing was a session labeled “The Kinsey Institute.” Located on the IU campus, the Kinsey Institute is (kids leave the room, please) for the study and research of all things humanly sexual. And that can be a bunch of really dirty stuff.
Which, of course, had the room packed to listen to one Debra Herbenick, a Kinsey “research scientist.” Talk about a let down. She did bring a few sex toys, but the lecture was all technical (you never knew sex could be technical, did you?) and as dry as a paved road.
Which, speaking of paved roads, there’s one out of this town leading south.
I’ll load the blonde’s truck (which now looks sort of like the Clampetts heading for California), slip Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again into the stereo, and head your way . . .
George Smith can be reached at 256-239-5286 or e-mail: email@example.com