Editor Column: An explanation for the recent column absence
You, you faithful ones, probably noticed I did not write a column last week. And you hardcore readers, probably noticed I did not write a column four weeks ago.
I suppose I have some explaining to do, but before going there I’d like to point out that I’m coming up on one year in this position. Including those two absences, the total number of times I’ve skipped the weekly column stands at three. That is three out of 49 papers as of last week — I counted — that my weekly column that was never intended to be a weekly column has appeared.
I’ve said it here before, and I’ve said it many more times during casual conversations, but this is one of, it not the most difficult part of the job. I will forever have memories of Kathy Y. Wilson, a columnist who was the greatest journalism professor I had in college, asking me, what the hell I was trying to say, after reading one of my pieces aloud in class.
Kathy was, and I’d imagine still is, very blunt, which I always appreciated, even in those scenarios where I could feel the heat radiating from my red face. Luckily, I never took it personally or ran out of the class crying, which one student did.
However, I listened as Kathy critiqued and although it was probably not her intention, I decided that I would not pursue opinion writing, or writing reviews, in my career. It never interested me or aligned with my strengths, so it seemed easier to avoid it rather than put in the work.
That was in 2012. Fast forward to taking this job about a year ago, and my boss mentioned that it would be a good idea to write a column every so often as a way of being more personal with readers.
I already intended to write the introductory “here’s who I am” column, and I was shocked when my boss told me that he liked it. The title was “A call for help,” and I asked readers and community members to reach out to me with story ideas, feedback and any other thoughts or suggestions.
The following week, I wrote about the weather because … well, it’s easy to talk about the weather and in this state, where conditions can turn on a dime, it is frequently on my mind.
The ball kept rolling from there for several reasons. First and foremost, I had plenty to say when I first arrived in Rifle. From detailing my first experience taking an animal to the Rifle Animal Shelter, to sharing the difficult decisions I faced after graduating high school, the topics sparked my interest and they were relevant (the column on post high school decisions ran shortly after our area high school students walked across the stage and received their diplomas).
The other reasons for keeping the column momentum were secondary but important. Consistency is crucial in this business, like others, and sticking to the schedule as much as possible is always advised. I just so happen to have inadvertently created a schedule of every week.
Also, despite my desire to find copious amounts of letters in my inbox, that was not and is not the case. Many weeks, the reality of whether we have an opinion page hinges on me writing a column.
It goes without saying that in trying my best to stick to the schedule there have been some stinkers, although in my warped way of thinking every one of these pieces is a stinker. I know that others — those who read this each week — have felt that way certain weeks because they told me.
This space has offered me the opportunity to share my observations on certain subjects, such as our state’s caucus system, and allowed me at times to explain how the sausage is made. Most importantly, I feel that it has provided you all the opportunity to get to know me on a more personal level.
With that said, I will almost always give up this space if others in the community wish to contribute to the conversation, which is what I believe a good opinion page should be. That has been the case in all three absences.
The first time I skipped writing a column was not when I went on vacation, but when we were inundated with letters related to oil and gas development in Battlement Mesa. The second time was four weeks ago when we ran a guest column from Aron Diaz, who is challenging Garfield County Commissioner John Martin for his seat. And last week we ran a column from Don Chaney, Rifle’s cultural and special events manager.
Those people had something to say and took the time to write it down and send it to me. I will not deny that opportunity because I simply want to share my musings for the week.
That will continue to be the policy moving forward and I ask that more of you express your thoughts and contribute. Because while I’m almost always able to find something that sparks my curiosity, I’d much rather hear from you.
Ryan Hoffman is ready to listen. He can be reached at 970-685-2103 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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