Why journalists should write more columns

As journalists, we’re not supposed to have views, are we?

We just report the news objectively and keep our opinions to ourselves.

Well, up to a point, of course.

But there is no doubt in my mind that some of the very best writing is done in the first person.

And specialist writers can have a unique store of knowledge, memories, insights and judgement when it comes to their sector, sport or patch.

So I’m always cheered when I see reporters writing columns, analysis and first-person pieces.

These are the things that bring added value to newspapers, transcending the here today, gone tomorrow nature of breaking news.

I always look forward to reading Gloucestershire Echo politics reporter Jack Maidment’s Quango Unchained column – which takes a wry and wise look at national and local government issues.

Elsewhere in the Echo, sports writer Will Wood movingly shares the emotional ups and downs of his recovery from brain injury in a weekly column.

In the Bristol Post, editor Mike Norton, deputy editor Rob Stokes, chief reporter Michael Ribbeck and sub-editor Mick Scanlan keep the marvellous 50something column going, alongside news feature writer Tom Morris and his take on married life.

While in the Wells Journal, news editor Oliver Hulme can tackle subjects as diverse as vacuum cleaners and football in his column Ramble On.

But my favourite reads in the papers I’m responsible for aren’t actually by people whose main job is writing.

I love the weekly column by Hugh Dixon in The Bath Chronicle on his family’s trials and tribulations.

But I have a particularly soft spot for photographer Len Copland’s Len’s Lens column in the Western Gazette.

As he shares his tips for getting the best out of your camera or phone, Len’s enthusiasm, knowledge, experience and wit shine out of every line.

Which is as close to a definition of good writing as you’re ever likely to get.


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