Of course, 1,127 columns did not just write themselves. Instead, although it might be hard to believe, an entire team worked on making sure that columns were accurate and made sense. This hidden team of editors included Vanessa Mussenden, Stephen Berry, Moira French, Seth Kirby and Linda Evans.
In addition, many readers did some editing as well. Week after week, it was always surprising to get dozens of responses from readers with corrections and comments. If a mistake happened (more often than not involving a date of some historical event), there was no shortage of readers quick to point it out. Yet, for the most part, readers offered interesting insights and opinions in response to the latest pontification in the column.
In fact, many topics for columns actually came from readers reacting to what was happening in the world. Of course, some columns were completely whimsical (like poking a little good-natured fun at Georgia Tech). Other times, the columns were quite personal.
As to this latter category, there were three columns where the topic remained the same but the content changed each year. First, and most importantly, the last column of each year thanked each Georgian by name who gave his or her life in service of the United States. The truth is, none of them, nor the families, can ever be thanked enough. Once again, to every soldier and every soldier’s family — THANK YOU!
Second, among the great tragedies in America today, there are two that were the subjects of columns each year. One impacts those who have just begun their journey of life, while the other impacts those approaching the end.
Teen suicide is heartbreaking. The numbers continue to burden America’s heart as more and more young people just give up. While it is difficult to understand and tougher to talk about, teen suicide is something that everyone should work harder to address. It is not going away.
Then, there is Alzheimer’s. It is a viciously cruel disease that steals from its victims and leaves behind enormous burdens shouldered by those who loved them most. The costs to society cannot be exaggerated.
Of course, there were occasional pontifications and predictions along the way. Long before they happened, column readers heard (accurately) predictions that Alaska GOov. Sarah Palin would become Sen. John McCain’s running mate; Congressman Nathan Deal would win the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary; scandal would rock the Georgia House of Representatives’ leadership; and, way back in the day – then Sen. Sam Nunn would not seek reelection.
Not surprisingly, national, state, and local politics dominated the topics. Presidents, speakers (U.S. and Georgian), governors, and congresses came and went. Along the way, there were lots and lots of elections with dynamic swings of an unsettled electorate eager for solutions, and impatient with corruption or failure.
As the Internet and cable news changed the world, politics sped up with faster and faster news cycles and more and more twists and turns. Contrary to popular belief, no political party escaped the blade of this column over the years.
Excessive spending is unacceptable regardless of whether it is the Democrats or Republicans doing it. The same is true for corruption or expanding the size and role of government.
Nothing or no one was off limits. There were even columns about the third branch of government – the judicial branch. After all, in Georgia, judges are elected just like representatives, senators, and governors. For all elected officials, educated voters are the ultimate check on power on every branch of government – sometimes in elections; and other times through constitutional amendments.
Yet, it was this column that attempted to fill a void. Unfortunately, most of the state and local media are now so preoccupied with racing to the latest crime scene that they spend little time on the things that affect Georgians as much.
Others in the media have become so desperate for their own little share of the limelight that they have moved from reporting the news to being the news. As opposed to ‘we report, you decide’, newspapers go so far as to actually designate themselves as the arbiter of truth while doing little more than sharing political opinions under the guise of fact checking.
But, there are some really good reporters, and some very good judges, mayors, governors, representatives, senators, and more. To be fair, they deserved (and got) recognition in a column or two by name as well.
In the end, it was a lot of fun. The newspapers who have run the column deserve a lot of credit. Week in and week out, they stuck with it — no matter how far the column was tilted in one direction or the other. And readers kept reading and chiming in — it was indeed free speech in action.
Randy Evans is an Atlanta attorney with McKenna Long & Aldrige LLP. He is the former General Counsel of the Georgia Republican Party and remains active in the party on both the state and national level. He can be reached at www.mckennalong.com or McKenna Long & Aldrige LLP, Suite 5300, 303 Peachtree St., Atlanta, GA 30308.