Five years, 261 columns, 1,300 messages
October 20, 2022
Let’s take a moment for me.
This column started on the Journal’s Opinion Page on Oct. 19, 2017 — the column you’re reading is episode No. 261. I’ve gone five years and one week without missing an issue, which isn’t easy during those weeks when you have nothing to say.
That comment about having nothing to say is an example of self-deprecation, and I’ve learned over these five years that self-deprecation is a surefire way to win readers. In fact, my self-deprecation skills are superior to just about anybody you know.
In addition to deprecation and flawless attendance, I’ve had just one published correction in 260 weeks. It happened last fall in a column about just-elected Shelton City Council member Miguel Gutierrez. I wrote, “He’s a fan of a democratic socialist — Maine’s independent Sen. Bernie Sanders …”
I know — and knew — that Sanders is from Vermont, but as I was typing I had the face of U.S. Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine, pop into my brain. And onto the page it went …
Now when I see council member Gutierrez, I imagine his only thought is, “Oh, that’s the guy who doesn’t even know where Bernie Sanders is from.”
I’ve had better moments. I save emails and letters I get from readers, and last week I went through some of the 1,300 messages I’ve received. Maybe 20 of those messages knock me for something, but the rest are either complimentary or address some aspect of their lives that my column made them consider.
“If you’re not making your readers angry, you’re not doing your job.” That’s a saying in the newspaper editorial- and column-writing business.
By that standard, I’m not doing my job. But I figure we have far too many people in this nation writing to make people angry, and anger is such a routine and self-defeating emotion anyway. Anger burns hot and usually lacks follow-through.
Making people angry is easy. Making people think is hard.
My favorite compliment over these five years came from a woman who told me she keeps a copy of my book of columns next to her bed so when she has a panic attack, she can read my articles. It calms her down, she said. I’ll take that over making someone angry — or having a reader tell me that something I wrote made her spit coffee onto her computer monitor.
I got an email from a reader who suggested I run for political office: “I imagine you might be aware that the way things look right now, the state representatives/senator from the 35th District will be recumbent candidates in the upcoming election with no opposing candidates having yet filed. The deadline to file falls between May 14-18. Have you considered running for office? Might you?” — Jeannine
I forwarded the email to Adam Rudnick, who was the editor of the Journal at the time. He wrote back, “You hate making idle chatter. People would ask you how you were doing all the time and you’d have to tell them ‘good!’ It would kill you.”
Adam is an astute fellow.
I received this from a friend whose dad was dying: “Just got off the phone with my dad. The conversation was kind of winding down and it seemed like neither of us could think of anything else to say, but it also seemed that my dad didn’t want to end the call yet, so I ended up reading most of your column to him and it definitely raised his mood. He chuckled several times, especially about the not being able to reinforce one’s prejudices because of tinted windows one. So, thanks for helping us both.” — Jason
Here are some comments from the flip side:
“I loved John Komen’s articles and the many interesting stories of history. I found your articles entertaining and humorous. These last few weeks I have found them aggravating. If I want to read and hear regular bashing of my president, I can watch mainstream news, social media, or read the bigger newspapers. I liked that Mason County Journal was mostly absent national politics. These political opinions should be for public only, not regular columnists.” — CharEll
“Just shelled out 60 bucks for the subscription to your paper. Live in Bremerton, property on Harstene (sic) Island. Like your paper, because it seems down the middle unlike that PC progressive rag the Seattle Times. But I guess you just couldn’t refrain the DTS inside your brain to feel like getting naked and expressing the hatred. I find it interesting that people like you NEVER put the blame where it belongs: CHINA!” Etc. Etc. Etc. — Marty
“I read your article about how you used to hate anti-vaxxers so much you wished them death, never minding that the jab has killed over 11,000 people in this country and seriously damaged another 48,000 people. Never mind that vaccinated people can still get COVID and they can spread it, too. Never mind that ‘my body, my choice’ is perfectly okay with killing an unborn baby, but when it comes to protecting oneself from a vaccine that is not a vaccine and hasn’t been tested for long-term side effects my body is now the government’s choice.” Etc. Etc. Etc. — Kevin
“I’ve read Kirk Ericson’s columns with enjoyment. They have been interesting because they’re slightly offbeat and well-written. Until this week, when he, unfortunately, allowed himself to fall into the deep, deep mud hole of political ‘morality.’ ” — Bruce
Thanks for reading.