Top Ten American Columns in History

DETROIT, Saturday, June 25, 2011 —  In a survey of columnists nationwide, the top American column in history was typed up by the late, great Ernie Pyle.

Pyle’s “The Death of Captain Waskow” first was published Jan. 10, 1944, by his syndicate, Scripps Howard.

John Avlon, senior political columnist for Newsweek-The Daily Beast, created the informal poll listing 15 historically vital pieces, basing the sample on research for his new book, Deadline Artists: America’s Greatest Newspaper Columns.

He turned the list over to the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, which emailed the unofficial questionnaire to its members and also posted at its website for public participation. The 15 columns were available at the website for review. Respondents were asked to rank 10 of the 15.

Avlon announced the results of this straw poll this morning, during the NSNC’s 35th annual conference, held this year in Detroit.

Deadline Artists, a hardcover collection from Overlook Press, edited by Avlon, Errol Louis and Jesse Angelo — comes out in September. Louis is anchor of NY1’s Inside City Hall and a former columnist for the New York Daily News. Angelo is editor in chief of News Corp’s digital publication The Daily.

The 15 columns can be read in a 31-page free download, The columns of course will be included in Deadline Artists.

Here are America’s Top 10 columns, authors, publishers, and date of publication:

  1. “The Death of Captain Waskow” — Ernie Pyle — Scripps Howard — 1/10/1944
  2. “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus” — Francis Pharcellus Church — New York Sun — 9/21/1897
  3. “A Short Story about the Vietnam War Memorial” — Molly Ivins — Dallas Times Herald — 11/30/1982
  4. “The Death of Frankie Jerome” — Westbrook Pegler — News Syndicate — 1/18/1924
  5. “It’s an Honor” — Jimmy Breslin — New York Herald Tribune — 11/26/1963
  6. “We’ll Go Forward From This Moment” — Leonard Pitts Jr. — The Miami Herald — 9/11/2001
  7. “He Went All the Way” — Murray Kempton — New York Post — 9/22/1958
  8. “Pithy into the Wind” — Dave Barry — The Miami Herald — 3/29/1987
  9. “Daley Embodied Chicago” — Mike Royko — Chicago Sun-Times — 12/21/1976
  10. “Gamalielese” — H.L. Mencken — Baltimore Sun — 3/7/1921

The remaining five are as follows, in the order respondents gave them: “Man of the Streets, in Three Suites,” Steve Lopez, Los Angeles Times, 12/4/2005; “Amelia Earhart,” Walter Lippmann, New York Herald Tribune” 7/8/1937; “Open Letter to America,” Chris Rose, New Orleans Times-Picayune” 9/6/2005; “Miracle of Coogan’s Bluff,” Red Smith, New York Herald Tribune, 10/4/1951; and “The Halloween of My Dreams,” Marjorie Williams, The Washington Post, 11/3/2004.

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