A newsier column and a new challenge
Writing a column is nothing new for me.
For the past five years, my column, “Foss Forward,” has appeared in the Saturday Lifestyles section. In that forum, I’ve written about a wide range of topics — friendship, travel, the arts and family, as well as my hopes and fears.
Because I was a news reporter, I operated under some restrictions.
Mainly, I couldn’t express opinions about the news. For the most part, this was fine by me, as I wasn’t particularly eager to express my opinions.
Not that I didn’t have them.
But I took my responsibilities as a reporter very seriously. And as long as I’ve been a reporter (which, if you include my work for school newspapers, has been a pretty long time), I’ve believed that covering the news in a fair and neutral way is more important than opining on the issues of the day. That if you want to understand how the world works, and why people do the things they do, you have to stop talking, and try to see things from multiple perspectives.
My great-Uncle Frank was the first person to ask whether I ever wanted to be a news columnist.
I was living in Birmingham, Ala., at the time, working for a small, daily paper called the Birmingham Post-Herald. A Massachusetts native, Uncle Frank had lived in the South for quite some time, and I would often fi nd him sitting in front of the television, watching CNN and expressing outrage about current events. At that particular time, he was appalled by the impeachment process against former President Bill Clinton.
“Imagine if you were writing about this!” Uncle Frank said. “You could influence so many people!”
“I doubt it,” I said.
The more Uncle Frank pushed me to share my opinions, the more I resisted, which kept our conversations lively. I argued with him even when we were in complete agreement, often playing the role of devil’s advocate. During our debates, he would inevitably return to his favorite topic: why I should aspire to write opinion.
“I don’t want to write opinion,” I told him. “And I never will.”
Of course, I was just 23 at the time, and 23-year-olds say a lot of things.
I would be lying if I said that there weren’t times when I yearned to express an opinion or two.
And so when the opportunity to write a news column arose, I took it.
I like challenges, and I needed a change.
It’s too late for me to publicly oppose the war on Iraq, or advocate for the legalization of same-sex marriage in New York, or write a tirade about former Schenectady school superintendent Eric Ely.
Those are old stories.
But the news never stops (except maybe in December and August), and I suspect that I’ll always have something to write about.
Already, I’m chomping at the bit to write about the November ballot referendum to expand casino gambling throughout New York. I can offer a hint: Though I’ve visited casinos and the track and generally had a good time, I’ve never met a gambling-related proposal that I’ve liked. And I doubt I ever will, although I’m open to the possibility.
Over the years, I’ve reported on poverty, health, business, reli- gion, politics, education, criminal justice and the environment — about just about every issue under the sun. I’ve developed some thoughts on these matters, and I’ll probably delve into them from time to time.
Already, I’ve felt emboldened to express opinions I wouldn’t ordinarily express.
Last week, when I wrote about how I enjoy seeing animals in the city in my “Foss Forward” column, I voiced my support for legalizing hen ownership in the city of Albany. I thought the legislation Mayor Jerry Jennings ultimately vetoed was very reasonable, and I suspect that the number of people who would take advantage of such a law would be fairly small — I certainly don’t intend to acquire any chickens any time soon, and neither do any of my friends.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone agrees.
“Until you have been downwind of a chicken coop in the summer you should not promote chicken coops in the city,” one reader wrote. “Most of the people who would like to have no idea how to raise them.”
Though I haven’t changed my opinion.
As a columnist, I hope to maintain an open mind, consider new ideas and write with conviction. My subject matter will be wide-ranging, local, regional and sometimes national in scope.