NSNC Members’ Greatest Columns

Here’s Your Best Column Ever 

By Dave Lieber

  Fort Worth Star-Telegram Columnist

   Somehow very few of us in NSNC are included in the new book, Deadline Artists: America’s Greatest Newspaper Columns. So in my last column I announced my own version – NSNC Members’ Greatest Columns. I asked for your best pieces. Thanks to those who responded.

   MARY PHELAN, honorable mention in this year’s NSNC contest, said her best column appeared before Mother’s Day this year in the Howard County Times in Columbia, Maryland. “The column was written with raw emotion about what it is like to be childless, not by choice, as Mother’s Day looms large. Only my two best friends knew at the time of the heartache and grief I have come to live with as a woman who wanted very badly to have children and finds herself with only she and her husband in the picture frame. I never shared it in a public forum before this column…. To this day, it was the hardest column I ever wrote.” Here’s the column.

   SHEILA MOSS, NSNC webmaster, says her best column was about lightning bugs. She took an extension course by bug experts, “then we went to the firefly fields to see them. Field research in its truest form.” The column was picked up by a textbook company who bought the rights to republish it. “I’ve made thousands off that one article, as they pay each time it’s republished.” Here’s the column.

   SUZETTE MARTINEZ STANDRING, former NSNC president, says she’s most proud of her well-known piece “The Final Days of Art Buchwald: A Visit” which ran in Editor & Publisher and elsewhere. “I spent two days in the hospice with the great columnist. Because of his daughter, Jennifer, I had a front row seat to watch Art hold final court with his beloved family and friends, and to ask him about his feeling about death, which everyone believed was just days away. I conveyed that intimate portrait to his legion of fans, and best of all, Art loved it. I included it as a final piece in my book, The Art of Column Writing: Insider Secrets from Art Buchwald, Dave Barry, Arianna Huffington, Pete Hamill and Other Great Columnists.” Here’s the column.

   WALTER BRASCH, a Pennsylvania university professor, picks his piece, “The Late Blooming Azalea,” explaining, “A woman moved into the neighborhood, saw what appeared to be a dead azalea and was about to cut it down. An older man in the neighborhood pleaded with her not to cut it down, for it would bloom – later than other azaleas – and it would be the most beautiful in the neighborhood. She didn’t trust him; this was a plant of sticks. Dead. But to humor him, she didn’t chop it down. The azalea, of course, late in the season bloomed, and did indeed become the most beautiful plant in the neighborhood.”

   MARK L. HOPKINS of the Anderson Independent-Mail in South Carolina picks “Maybe we walk hand in hand” published three days before President Obama’s Inauguration. The writing process “helped me put into context the enormity of the symbolism of the election.” He adds, “The theme was optimism. It was an effort to look toward a future with new leadership and new optimism.”  

   JEFF BROWN of Iowa says his fav is “Master of None.” He explains, “After months mulling the idea of using a boxing match as a template for a story featuring my wife’s old dog and me, I finally put my fingers to keys one day after having to clean up after him (again). I did a little online research for some boxing terminology, and soon a column was born.” See column here.

   Thanks to the above colleagues for sharing.


Dave Lieber is founder of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists Education Foundation. Learn about his newest book at BadDadBook.com.


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