1,092 Columns And Counting

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - July 22, 2009
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This is my 21st year of opinionating in MidWeek. My early columns did not come easy. I wrote, scrapped, wrote again. The first was about Vietnam war films such as Platoon and Hamburger Hill being so much more realistic than anything we saw after World War II.

I’m not sure many people saw my columns 21 years ago. The paper was quite thin on content and, to be honest, not an engaging read. People told me they used to toss it without reading it. Even the one with me and my wife on the cover!

Not anymore. I get plenty of e-mail comment every week.

My approach is to pick a topic on which honest people can disagree. I’m not a doctrinaire liberal or conservative, environmentalist or libertarian. I prefer to think that I summon common sense, what’s morally right, and what will make us a better community if we can see beyond some of the prejudicial thought processes we may have grown up with or acquired.

Yes, some of you manage to find huge holes in some of my arguments. I’m not a seer. Some of you disagree on religious or family value grounds. And sometimes I even make a mistake! I think all writers agree the toughest job once the writing’s done is to proof-read your own copy for mistakes.

Some columnists stick pretty close to a subject matter such as politics, morals or food and tech issues. I tend to be eclectic. Sometimes I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with an idea, go to the computer and make a few notes so I don’t forget in the morning. I also trash some of my would-be columns. I didn’t like them when they were finished and sat around for a few days. I’ve been known to submit a whole new column right on production day and drive the editors nuts.

And with maybe half a million people reading my stuff, it behooves me to be careful about what I suggest. I don’t get too whimsical. I might be influencing your vote on a person or a thing.

That’s a serious responsibility.

Yes, I’m often out there well ahead of the crowd - I’m pro gambling, same-sex marriage, universal healthcare, and against the homeless taking over our parks. I also want the Waikiki Natatorium torn down to create more beach. And I strongly favor the Honolulu transit train.

The dailies have enlisted more columnists since this form of journalism became so popular at MidWeek. Generally, though, they’re not as edgy. MidWeek gives us great leeway within the bounds of good taste and libel.

Like every other writer, I worry whether this economy will continue to support my columns. Things look promising because MidWeek readership is way up. I worry that newspapers in general will go too easy editorially on wayward businesses because they don’t want to lose their advertising. Could I get away with slamming a major supermarket if it deserved to be slammed? So far, that’s not been an issue to be confronted. Whew!

I’ve only had two columns killed in 21 years.

One by the former publisher, who refused to let anything good be written about the Honolulu Advertiser. I wanted to praise that paper’s theater critic. The other by the current publisher, who felt I was unduly harsh about the shabby storefronts of Kaimuki (I see Kaimuki and Moiliili as architectural disasters.) Not bad batting - two out of 1,092 columns.

Anyway, thanks for reading. Thanks for advertising. Don’t ever be bashful about sending me an e-mail of disagreement. I don’t bite.

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