I say it maybe two or three times a day to would-be commentators who want a place on our op-ed pages.
We don’t need more pieces on the big issues of the day, I tell them. We’re deluged with national stuff – 20, 30 times more of it than we have space to run on any given day.
Instead of their wisdom on guns, gay marriage, abortion, Afghanistan, etc., what I’d really like are observations of something closer to home. Something that helps us better understand our communities, our neighborhoods and perhaps ourselves. Something unique, told in a unique voice.
That’s why, every year about this time, we pick a very select group of reader columnists. Their columns – which run on Mondays – offer points of view found nowhere else.
We’ve just chosen our columnists for 2013: Melissa Frink, Susan Gordon, Aidan O’Neill, Scott Candoo and Nancy Magnusson. Before the new crew comes on board, though, let me pay fitting tribute to the departing talent.
From rural Pierce County, Karen Frost gave us meditations from the forest’s edge. Frost possesses a gift for finding a galaxy in a speck of dust. She turned a quiet New Year’s Eve with her husband, for example, into an exploration of “gossamer, intangible” time and the passage of rich years.
Glenda Cooper, a businesswoman and accomplished writer, is a born raconteur. She spots the telling moment – as when, at a wedding, a cellphone went off in the pocket of the groom as he was exchanging vows. “Dude, seriously?” said the bride.
Catherine Forte is preternaturally nimble with sentences; she does funny and serious with equal panache. I laughed out loud at her account of her daredevil little sister spitting on a grave at dusk in a cemetery “all the kids” knew was haunted.
Maria Gudaitis brought an exquisite poetic gift, laced with humor, to her columns. “August is the cruelest month,” she wrote last summer. “It scorches lettuce and rains on camping tents. Tomatoes struggle to ripen. I struggle with the new bathing suit that doesn’t quite fit.”
Joe Joyce – a Bellarmine student – brought a wry eye to the incongruities of teenage life. He aspired to be an Olympic athlete, he wrote last April: “My genes had a different idea, and I was cursed with what is known as the ‘C-team body.’”
One of our original lineup, Pat Rigley, wound up moving back to California; we invited Ken Miller – a guy who thinks a lot about Tacoma – to replace him. Miller riled up readers with acid commentary on school construction and the local municipal unions.
Do not leave this channel. We also expect great things of our incoming columnists.
• Melissa Frink of North Tacoma originally comes from “a dead zone of sorts, a fuzzy area that is not quite Tacoma, not quite Spanaway.” She’ll debut Monday with an account of saving sea suns (those startling, many-pronged starfish) on the Ruston Way waterfront.
• Veteran readers of The News Tribune will recognize Susan Gordon’s byline: She had an impressive career with McClatchy Newpapers and worked here until 2008. Now living north of Eatonville, she’ll be showing us a more personal side than the journalist’s trade permitted.
• Aidan O’Neill’s father, Brian, is a former reader columnist himself and currently writes the “Blue Byline” blog on our website. Judging by his talent, Aiden – a senior at Gig Harbor High School – didn’t fall far from the tree. We came within a coin’s toss of picking him last year; this year, it wasn’t a tossup.
• Scott Candoo is a Tacoma lawyer with a keen eye for the absurdities of human behavior – especially in courtrooms.
• Nancy Magnusson, a young Gig Harbor mom with a degree in microbiology, is raring to trade “stuffy scientific papers” for the pleasures of the personal essay – a genre she is pretty good at already.
We’ll miss our 2012 columnists. But we’ll enjoy their successors.Patrick O’Callahan is the editorial page editor. Email him at email@example.com.