Is Dan Savage ‘the most influential advice columnist’?

The current issue of Washington Monthly crowns advice columnist Dan Savage as this generation’s “most influential advice columnist,” specifically successor to Ann Landers, at the same time it argues the incongruity of such a claim.

Lutheran pastor Benjamin J. Dueholm wrote the lengthy profile, calling Dan Savage the “brilliant and foul-mouthed sex columnist [who] has become one of the major advice columnists in America.”

Dueholm notes that Savage himself sees connections to the late Eppie Lederer, better known as Ann Landers. In fact, Savage years ago bought at auction, from her estate, Lederer’s desk and typewriter in Illinois and keeps them in his Seattle office. Savage is editorial director of that city’s alt weekly The Stranger.

Savage pulls no punches in his answers. In fact most of the 70 newspapers that run his syndicated weekly column are alternative weeklies, which welcome the adult subjects and language. In contrast, Landers had an estimated 90 million readers of her daily PG-rated Q-and-A. Dueholm says that including online readers, Savage’s reach has grown to the millions as well.

Dueholm believes that Savage’s most lasting influence on American culture may ultimately be in the field of ethics. As a pastor, Dueholm sees the relevance of Savage’s bluntness and common sense, noting, “I have yet to marry a couple that wasn’t living together before the vows. … [O]ften the questions he takes up are more relevant to the people in my pews than the arguments over contraception, cohabitation, divorce, and homosexuality that still roil some parts of the church.”

The author ultimately concludes his complex article arguing against parts of Savage’s view of relationships and human nature. Yet Dueholm seems grateful, for the sake of his congregants, that Savage goes where no hugely popular columnist has gone before.

— Ben Pollock, NSNC president

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