Paul Greenberg

What's the collective noun for editorial writers? I need to know because a whole herd of us is coming together this week here in Little Rock. But to call us a herd gives us too much credit for organization. I know it's a coven of witches, a pride of lions, a murder of crows, but what do you call an agglomeration of editorial writers?

My nomination: a clatter. As in the sound made by those old Royals and Underwoods in the noisy, crowded, smoke-filled newsrooms of yesteryear.

There was something romantic, promising, alive about that sound. There still is, which may be why there's a market even now for manual typewriters among the sentimental, or just wistful.

We won't be a full-fledged clatter until the program gets under way with greetings from Mike Huckabee, formerly a governor and presidential candidate, and currently political commentator and bass guitarist with his rock 'n' roll ensemble, Capitol Offense.

There'll be some other Big Names on the program, like syndicated columnist Juan Williams and John Shelton Reed, the DeTocqueville of Dixie. He's rounded up a whole passel of eminent sociologists to talk about the latest incarnation of that curious ethnic/geographic/cultural group known as Southerners.

We'll talk about the Wal-Mart Effect and the impact of Hispanic immigration, too. The obligatory tour of the Central High Museum is to follow a discussion about the ever-evolving historical significance of the Little Rock Crisis of 1957. It'll all be in keeping with the convention's theme this year: "The Next South, the Next America."

Who knows, we may even get around to discussing editorial writing at some point.

All in all, this conclave should be quite a show. It could even prove an education if we pay attention.

Editorial writers should be trickling into the lobby of the Peabody Hotel here in Little Rock all during the day. One by one they'll set down their luggage and the obligatory laptops that have replaced the old Royal and Remington portables, and start looking around for old friends or, even better, old enemies. Some of us have feuded for so long we've started to like each other.

You grow fond of people you see Same Time Next Year - year after year. And I've reached the age where I not only see old friends but a ghost or two, editorial writers from the past who used to be at these conventions but have made their last deadline. Tony Snow, a lapsed editorial writer who wound up a presidential press secretary, had been invited to speak at our final dinner, but had a previous engagement. Dang, it'd be good to see him again at one of these things and renew the past, slightly rewritten to give ourselves much better lines.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.