I feel very, very lucky.
When I wrote about wanting to bring on four new columnists at the end of May, I was sure I’d get three or four folks who’d apply. On a good day, I thought maybe as much as six – on less good days, I wondered if I’d get any.
After all, even I had to admit that writing for a newspaper is a bit… archaic. Especially when you think about all the other ways and means people have to communicate with each other on a wide scale.
And yet, there will always be something powerful and attractive about the written word, the printed word, that will never go out of style.
I feel it, and I figure the 20-or-so people who expressed their interest in writing for us – for you – feel it too.
Like I said, I feel very, very lucky.
These folks ran the gamut – I had an application emailed to me days after my initial column wan printed, and several that arrived in my inbox at 11:57 p.m. on May 31.
Some people followed my direction to the letter (especially the instruction to write “columnist application” in the subject line of their email), and others… well, I probably shouldn’t throw stones, given my propensity to make things up as I go along.
Many submitted their application and exchanged exactly as many words with me as they needed to know I had received it, while several more continued to engage with me, asking questions, wanting to make sure their application was the strongest it could be.
Most interviews went for 15, 20 minutes. One, I think, lasted an hour and a half.
I talked with writers, historians, counselors, community pillars, parents, class clowns, and pilots; everyone I met had fantastic stories to share.
Several people were born here – others are brand new.
Some made me laugh. A few caused me to tear up. On the rare occasion, both happened simultaneously.
In fact, the only similarity between them all is that they wore their masks when they came to the office.
That, and they all felt called to write for their community.
In many ways, only getting four or six applicants would have been a much easier project – each of my co-workers said, when they were reading through all the applications, that they didn’t envy my having to pick just four of them.
But that was the job. I won’t say the looming decisions kept me up nights, but they were never far from my mind, either. I even read applications while grocery shopping one time (that was quite the trip – turns out, there’s a subtle but important difference between shallots and scallions that you don’t notice when you’re reading about the state’s (lack of a) behavioral health system for children and the trouble someone had with moles in their garden).
So first, to everyone who applied, I want to extend my most sincere thank you – it was an honor to meet you all, and I want you to know it was you that made this project a success. I hope I see your applications next summer, when I plan to bring on a second round of writers.
Second, while I couldn’t deputize everyone as a columnist, it was pointed out to me that there are four months between now and next July that have five weeks, not four, and we would be without a regularly scheduled column. Given this, I hope when these editions come around, several of the columnists who did not make the final cut feel invited to write a special one-off column for their community.
And finally, I want to congratulate Luke Miller, Daisy DeVine, Julie Reece-DeMarco, and Jeff Antonelis-Lapp on being chosen to be the Courier-Herald’s new columnists. It’s my hope that their varied topics, writing styles, and personalities will have something in store for everyone on the Plateau to enjoy, ponder, debate, or take to heart.
I also hope you, our readers, feel called to interact with these four; write them letters, ask them questions, and send them photos or stories of your own. It wasn’t just my goal to bring on more writers and different opinions, but also to get the public more engaged with the newspaper.
We live in a world where our words can reach across the world; faster than sound, faster than light, and – in many, many cases – faster than thought.
So maybe being a little archaic isn’t such a bad thing to consider right now. To take the time to think about what you want to say. To mull it over, sharpen it, polish it, before those thoughts leave your brain to head into the real world.
There’s grace in consideration. There’s virtue in self-control.
And there’s power in the printed word.