Variety by choice, not mandate

Column readers, some in dismay, have been reaching out over the past few weeks while channeling Ronald Reagan.

“There you go again” is how so many of the conversations have started, even if the rest of the conversation differs.

“I really enjoyed your Saturday column,” one woman said. “You’ve been spending so much time on events and harder news lately that I was afraid you’d been told not to write those types of softer and more thoughtful pieces.”

Another caller wanted more information on the Sunday column. “Your writing is thick — and I mean that in a very good way,” he said. “I really like it when you dive into a topic, really learn the pieces of it and spread it out for the reader. You have a knack for it. When you write that way, I feel more knowledgeable, even when our opinions differ.”

The opinions on my opinion writing seem never to end, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the feedback. Seriously.

I’ve worked in publishing — primarily print journalism ­— for more than two decades. And while I’ve written a fair share of personal or opinion columns, this is the first time I’ve been tasked with doing so as a primary responsibility.

Ironically enough, when I was a beat reporter, scrambling to find just one more source, I was jealous of column writers. Since I’ve jumped the fence, I have to admit the grass wasn’t as green as it looked.

Coming up with fresh column ideas — ones that interest me and that I think may interest readers — is as challenging as it is rewarding.

I’ve gotten the impression, however, that readers are feeling a bit of whiplash from my eclectic tastes.

Some enjoy the thoughtful pieces, like what I wrote in reaction to Robin Williams’ suicide or our son’s stillbirth. Others favor more hard-hitting opinion, such as when I wrote about voter ID laws or the lack of sunshine in K-12 superintendent selection.

Still others enjoyed the discussion on British and American politics in my UKIP column, and would like to read more political analysis. Finally, there are readers who seek perspectives related to history. They want more columns about places like Picher, Okla., the fate of Cedar County’s Little House or debate on preserving Iowa battlefields.

Readers need to understand that I cut my journalism teeth at community newspapers. That is, I didn’t begin my career at a large daily, where I was assigned the boundaries of a specific beat. On any given week, I covered government, features, business, education and sadly (because I never did it justice) sports.

I fell in love with news and reporting because of the variety, because I never knew what I might learn. Is there any other career that rewards curiosity?

And, because so many have alluded to the possibility of my hands being tied, please know the world truly is my oyster. No one at The Gazette has ever tried to limit topics or otherwise direct these columns — probably to the chagrin of disgruntled readers.

While I’m not willing to rule out that I might, at some distant point, relax into a specific type of column writer, I’m not ready just yet. But, please, don’t stop letting me know what most appeals to you.

This column by Lynda Waddington originally published in The Gazette on May 23, 2015.