August 06, 2008

Column could use a snappier name

As published in The Erin Advocate

When I told a friend I would be writing an opinion column, she said, “That sounds great. You won’t even need to know what the heck you’re talking about.”

Fortunately, being right all the time is not in the job description, at least when it come to opinions. I may be right all the time, as I sometimes convince myself, but it is not a requirement.

When I was a news reporter, it was simple. You found out the important details of an issue and got other people to give their opinions on it. They were the ones who would feel the heat if others disagreed.

Now here I am with the freedom the pick my own topic, and sound off as I please. I have not been elected, but I have my own little soapbox to stand on. I have not been ordained, but I can preach weekly. It is a frightening prospect, both for myself and for readers.

I have been cautious so far, and I know of no complaints to the editor. Perhaps I need to try harder.

Often it is not about being right, but about covering the interests of people who care about a topic. Recently I wrote about tourism, mentioning local shops, restaurants, natural attractions and accommodations. My friend Neville Worsnop, of Century Church Theatre in Hillsburgh, pointed out that I did not mention theatre. It was a valid point, because live theatre does draw people to small towns, and they spend money on other things while visiting.

Theatre never crossed my mind while writing that piece, though I have spent years volunteering to support it in Erin. When I fail to notice the obvious, I blame the advance of years, but I never get any sympathy.

Concentrate, Phil. The column is almost half done. Time to broach the main topic.

When I wrote the first column, I suggested to Joan Murray that we not have an official name, since I could not think of a good one. To my surprise, she gave it a name anyhow: “Life in the Town of Erin”.

This is intended to serve until we come up with some other inspiration. Or we could make it permanent, which would be all right. It stresses the local angle and imposes no other restrictions.

But maybe the column could use a snappier name. Something a little edgy, but not so edgy as to alienate any major sectors of the population. A clever combination of words to entice busy readers to tarry a while.

And who better to help with naming than the valiant readers who have made it this far? If you have suggestions for a column name, mail them to the address on page 6, or email them to: There is no prize, other than having your name in the paper (plus bragging rights) if yours is chosen. I may mention other submissions as well, and I promise not to make fun of any of them.

To help the process along, here are some of the name ideas that have already been considered.

The Way I See It: I was thinking of this one, but while I was thinking, my tennis buddy Bruce Hood went and took it for his column. Sheesh. As they say at Sunday Morning Tennis, if you snooze, you lose.

Horsefeathers: A bit too agricultural.

Off on a Tangent: Still a possibility, since it describes my normal method of processing ideas, but it is unclear if that should be encouraged.

The Devil’s Advocate: Somewhat appealing, since it plays on the newspaper name. It suggests a writer who takes a contrary view just for the sake of argument. That is not how I want to be, especially not all the time, and the negative slant would be hard to maintain.

Sunshine Sketches of a Little Green Town: Upbeat, but presumptuous, to say the least. The Irish twist is insufficiently subtle, and the extra-terrestrial allusion (little green men) could cause some to take offence. Nothing but trouble. Rejected.

Some people say I have a slight tendency to over-analyze. Others call it severe. I am still trying to figure out which group is right. What if the first group is just being polite, or worse – sarcastic? Maybe they are both partially right. In any case, I doubt that both are completely wrong.

My computer has an alarm that sounds when a column hits 700 words, and it has been going for a while, so I must wrap it up.

Maybe I should stick with Life in the Town of Erin. Let me know.

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