The American Newspaper Columnist

The American Newspaper Columnist

The American Newspaper Columnist

The American Newspaper Columnist

Synopsis

The figure of the newspaper columnist, which emerged in America in the mid-nineteenth century, plays a key role in modern newspapers. Columnists nowadays add a decidedly personal touch to the newspapers in which they appear--an important consideration in an increasingly impersonal, corporate, no-nonsense medium. This volume provides the most complete look available at the emergence of the columnist and at who the leading columnists have been from the Civil War era to the present. In total, 780 columnists and their work are examined chronologically--according to when their columns first appeared--within several categories: early (1800s), humor, column poets, syndicated political, other syndicated, local, and minority.

Excerpt

In Phoenix, E. J. Montini levels a slashingly satirical attack at junketing politicians; in Atlanta, Celestine Sibley recalls some of the late residents of the outlying community of Sweet Apple; in Miami, Carl Hiaasen bewails his city's desensitization to violent crime; in Philadelphia, Melissa Dribben takes tongue-in-cheek satisfaction in her recent high school reunion; in Las Vegas, John L. Smith pays tribute to a deceased bookie; from Durham, North Carolina, William Raspberry decries Oakland, California's, plan to teach "ebonics." The subject matter is as varied as anyone could imagine; the connection is that all these writers are newspaper columnists. They are a disparate lot, to be sure, but they share two characteristics: a regular, set schedule of publication and an absolute need to be interesting to their readers.

A column is a brief, informal essay, averaging perhaps 750-850 words, that appears on a set schedule, whether daily, weekly, or otherwise. A particular column usually addresses a single topic, although so-called "items columnists" write in short paragraphs on several unrelated topics rather than giving their readers a unified, single-topic essay. Usually a column is written by a single, identified author, although a few columns are written unsigned, on a shared basis by several individuals, or under a pen name. Ordinarily, the column appears regularly in the same physical position in its newspaper -- on the op-ed page, the front page of the metro section, or whatever.

Like their longer cousins, feature stories, columns exist more because they are interesting than for their news value. This book's aim is to describe the origins, development, and present condition of this particular corner of newspaper journalism. It is the last in a series of three books devoted to . . .

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