I enjoy reading, and I particularly enjoy reading good columnists. “Good” may mean that I agree with them. I can be narrow that way. But “good” also means that they make me think. I do that rarely enough that I appreciate the help.
My favorite columnists are my favorite columnists in large part because they’re good at wielding words to cut through fog and haze and mental mushiness. At least, they help me see what’s going on around us all through the eyes of someone I’ve learned to trust as a no-nonsense observer. At best, I get to glide along for a while on words given wings by a writer who is a master at launching them.
Just FYI, the late Charles Krauthammer was one of my favorites. His books, especially the compilations of his columns, are incredibly good. I’ve always enjoyed George Will, a man guaranteed to expand your vocabulary and slow to put up with nonsense. A lover of baseball (and a baseball scholar!), he’s good at calling balls and strikes. His writing pointed me toward the late William Zinsser who literally wrote the book On Writing Well—and wrote brilliantly. I love reading Lance Morrow. “Brilliant” is not over-much praise for him as well.
My favorite columnist for a good while now has been Peggy Noonan. Some of the best money I spend is for (this sounds like a contradiction in terms) the online version of the Wall Street Journal print edition. Their regular columnists are very good—and they have Peggy Noonan, the best of all, I think. Her weekly columns are more than worth the price of the subscription.
I hear many people boiling over these days about media bias. I don’t blame them; the slants are obvious. All I have to do is mention “far to mostly right” or “far to mostly left,” and you can immediately name news organizations occupying those slots.
I was once standing at a border crossing between Uganda and Kenya when a Greyhound-type bus rolled past. It was rolling under its own power, but it had obviously “rolled” before. Over and over. It looked like a barely mobile parallelogram, a four-sided object, kind of like a matchbox squashed out of square with wheels attached. It was so whomper-jawed that the windows were broken out and the outside corners of the tall seats jutted out through the geometric plane on one side.
Our national news is often like that. With editorials and commentaries, you expect opinion. But my opinion is that with far too much of the national news, we get slant. Like that bus, it rolls down the highway, listing or almost tumbling off left or right. That is wrong, unethical, and unprofessional, but it’s been a long time since it surprised us much. The various news organizations have long ago pasted their ads on their chosen sides of the slanting bus.
I like it when I have the feeling that I’m reading—traveling on a bus—that at least makes an attempt not to roll down the road sideways. The news is reported “straight” and the commentary is labeled as such. Hearing or reading such, I feel that maybe I’m heading down the road toward at least something that squares a bit with reality, that I’ve learned something. Maybe even some truth.
One of the things I enjoy about a good column is that, even as the issues and news items of the day change, some of the nuggets of truth the columnists dig out in their particular mining still glitter days and months and even decades later.
How’s this for prediction? In one of his columns, G. K. Chesterton (no one ever road words like Chesterton) wrote, “We shall soon be in a world in which a man may be howled down for saying that two and two make four” (Aug. 18, 1926; thanks to Brad Shorr for his compilation of Chesterton quotes from The Illustrated London News).
And, regarding political parties, “I do not particularly object to the pot calling the kettle black. The Party System is made like that. But I do strongly object to the pot calling the kettle white” (Chesterton, Feb. 21, 1914).
But the real reason I suppose that good columnists write, and that I enjoy reading their work, is again put into words by Chesterton: “I have gone through most of my life looking for an uninteresting subject—or even an uninteresting person. It is the romance of my life that I have failed to find either of them” (Jan. 11, 1913).
And there’s a deep truth. Our Creator made a world full of marvels, and most marvelous of all are our fellow beings.
You’re invited to visit my website, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!
Copyright 2023 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.