BUFFALO — The opportunity to write a weekly newspaper column is a wonderful benefit to the career that I began, more than 36 years ago. As December wanes, it is a good time to look back at some of the interactions I have had with you, the readers.
One of the earliest columns I wrote this year revolved around my first time attending a presidential inauguration.
The best part of the day came before the sun rose, as I met several people waiting in line to witness a live television broadcast, at a famous Capitol Hill restaurant. The conversation set me on a course to express how I came to feel such a strong connection to complete strangers of a different political viewpoint, who were also wrapped up in the festivities.
I would never have met Marty and Monica Welch, had we not been shivering together on F Street that morning, so it was a very good day.
Unusual names from the past interest me, so I keep a file of them ,on my computer. A reader from Cheektowaga eclipsed my May column on the topic, with a page from her own family history.
“On my dad’s side, I had an aunt who owned a nursing home on Coffeen Street in Watertown, N.Y. Her name was Fanny Crapp. How do you like that for a name?” she wrote.
Later, I wrote a more serious column about the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and why the three-day engagement still has lasting meaning.
“As you suggest, it’s a place every American should visit and you are right; it is indeed hallowed ground,” wrote my friend Bill from Amherst, N.Y.
Emotions ran high as I visited Gettysburg on the anniversary weekend, going so far as to bring my great-great-grandfather’s Civil War musket to the same place on the battlefield where the 1st Maryland Cavalry held against some of the best cavalrymen in the Confederate army.
“Great writing! I felt like I was standing next to you. Having been there many times with my children, years ago, I know the landscape well,” wrote an Amherst financial planner. “Thanks for telling your story.”
Peter, who works in Erie County government, also liked this column.
“It is truly a spiritual experience. You captured it perfectly,” he said.
Yet, being a journalist is not all milk and honey. I received some negative feedback for a column I wrote in August, regarding national security leaks.
“Your counterproductive rhetoric of President Obama has shown your total lack of political knowledge, since he’s been president, and your commentary on his foreign policy, particularly in regard to the United States, Russia and Edward Snowden, has exposed even more of your lack of credibility,” wrote Richard of Lancaster, N.Y.
“When president Obama has shoes thrown at him like [President George] Bush and when he has his Nobel Peace Prize taken away, then maybe we can criticize his foreign policy.”
A former East Aurora resident, now living in California, was more direct when he wrote, “I await my copy every week, only to find your ‘flat earth,’ ‘global warming denials’ and ‘Obama-bashing’ columns sullying the pages! Did you ever consider that beliefs like yours are what have driven people out of WNY?”
Speaking of driving, the column about my recent acquisition of a 2014 Camaro sparked more comments than anything political.
“I enjoyed the article. There is nothing like a statement car to make you feel good about yourself,” wrote Richard, who is prominent in American Legion activities. “The only bad thing; these are cars are not to be driven in the winter.”
“I too received a call reminding me that the lease on my Chevy Malibu was up in three months,” wrote Al, another reader. “I ended up getting a 2014 Camaro 2LS Coupe with the rally stripe. I love my new car. You made a nice choice.”
Thanks Marty, Monica, Bill, Peter, Richard and everyone else who takes the time to read this column. Your feedback is what proves that, as a journalist, I made a nice choice.
David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.