The columnist’s paradox

By Steve Outing

A line in Bill McCloskey’s latest E-mail Insider column resonated with me. In his latest, “What You Can Expect From This Column In 2007,” he wrote:

I have absolutely no idea what my readers consider the gems and what they consider the dregs. I’ve been writing columns for over 10 years now and I have never found a connection between what I think is good and what my audience thinks is good. The column I punch out in five minutes between drinks and dinner at some trade show are the columns that often generate the most excitement and conversation in the industry. Some of the ones I labor over go over like a lead balloon. I never know, so there’s nothing I can do to change it.

That’s been exactly my experience in writing columns for Editor & Publisher Online since 1995. I’ve written columns that took a lot of research and interviews to produce and that I toiled over the writing, and they’ve generated little or no after-publication conversation. And I’ve quickly banged out columns with nothing but the thoughts in my head, and those have gotten the most feedback and press coverage elsewhere. Go figure.

Perhaps this is a common thing for columnists. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in this experience.

And BTW, my latest E&P Online “Stop The Presses!” column was published yesterday: “Some Words of Advice for Small Newspapers.” (This was actually my December 2006 column, but some e-mail problems over the holidays delayed its publication.)

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!