Monday, July 13, 2015

Reflecting on the first decade of this column

Time flies when you’re having fun. At least that’s the way that I look at it with this column. It’s hard to believe, but this week marks the tenth anniversary of my weekly rants and analyses being a part of the Greater Niagara Newspapers.

Here we are, 10 years and more than 500 columns later. What a ride it’s been.

Back in June of 2005 I asked then editor of the Lockport Union Sun and Journal Tim Marren if he’d be interested in me writing a weekly column. Back then, the paper was devoid of local columnists, an outcome of the passing of the irreplaceable Clip Smith. When I ran my idea by Tim, I threw in a major selling point by offering to do as Clip did with his columns and write them for free (which is still the case to this day).

Coming to the paper, all that I had to hang my hat on was three years of an opinion column called “Off the Deep End” that ran in the pages of the student newspaper of SUNY Brockport from 2002-2004 when I was a part-time continuing education student. But, Tim saw the promise and took the gamble, and I am forever indebted to him for that.

I also thank all the editors and publishers of the US&J, Niagara Gazette and the now defunct Medina Journal-Register and Tonawanda News for having stuck with me and allowing me to pursue my dream.

And, I thank you, the reader, for putting up with me – even though you don’t always agree with me – week in and week out. Over the years I’ve heard from hundreds, maybe thousands, of you. Some folks write me in agreement. Others have respectfully disagreed. And, a few have disrespectfully disagreed to the point of mailing me my column with expletives written all over it. Be it to the positive or negative, I love all your feedback.

This column has received feedback and exposure from all over the world, and it’s exciting to wonder whose attention I might attract next. Rebuttals from Charles Schumer and Louise Slaughter have appeared in this paper. Key staffers from the Reagan Administration spoke out about a column. I appeared on a NRA radio show to talk about the United Nations. Supermodel-turned-super-businesswoman Kathy Ireland and I shared some nice dialogue on social media after she read one of my articles. The largest newspapers in Germany and China have quoted me. And, what really makes me proud, schools and departments of education across the US and Canada have included my essays or quotes in their textbooks and curriculum.

That’s just a sampling of the adventures I’ve had. But, my most memorable experience – and my biggest victory – to come out of this paper came from a 2011 piece that educated the readers on a dangerous proposal by the Obama Administration. The Department of Labor would have excluded all minors (except the children of the farm’s owners) from most farm work and all animal husbandry, which would have absolutely killed the future of agriculture in this country and destroyed the 4-H and FFA. Thanks to the wonders of in the internet, the column went viral almost overnight and farmers, high school students, ag colleges, talk radio hosts, and politicians heartily voiced their opinions in the closing days of the public comment period. We beat back the regulations and it was a huge win for farming….all because of this little columnist writing for this little newspaper.

It’s pretty exciting to have that sort of power.

And, you know what? It’s not a power that I hold all to myself. You, too, have the ability to educate others, spur people to activism and bring about change.

This newspaper is yours. Use it.

If there’s something out there in politics, society, the economy or your neighborhood that gets your goat or needs further attention, take to pen and paper (or, more accurately nowadays, the keyboard), and write an essay or a letter to the editor. Somebody is always reading – be it here in Niagara County or half way around the world.

They may not agree with you. But, at least you got them to think about an issue from a different point of view or with a deeper understanding. That’s what I hope this column has done for the past decade – and what I hope it will do for many more. 

From the 13 July 2015 Lockport Union Sun and Journal

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