After reviewing this blog, a friend reminded me of a benefit I’d yet to put on our list. She’s an award-winning columnist whose work regularly appears in the local daily.
“I can’t tell you the number of people who call or email to tell me how connected they feel (to me, they think, but mostly to the human race) because they have a column to read in their local paper,” my friend wrote. “That’s not a benefit that you can codify in dollars in cents, but it is one just the same.”
A reporter’s byline might become familiar, but since it runs on different pages and different days, even an admiring reader can’t anticipate its appearance.
Columnists have a steady gig. Their work appears on the same day and in the same place in the paper. Usually, a column runs with an identifying piece of art and type (the “sig”) — perhaps a headshot of the columnist and the column’s title — that makes the column easy to find.
The column’s dependable arrival, always written by the same person and usually in a consistent style, builds a following. Subscribers know which section and page to turn to on a given day to find out what their favorite columnist has been up to. Since the best columns are personal, the sense of connection between the columnist and his or her readers feels personal, too.
Traditional dailies usually grow their own columnists. Reporters or editors graduate into the role as their knowledge of the community and writing style develops. Their work becomes a point of connection between the paper and the community, and between readers within the community, creating a sense of belonging for all.