In honor of the anniversary of Columnist Ernie Pyle’s death, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists created National Columnists’ Day, April 18. In case you don’t know who Ernie Pyle is, he’s become the unofficial patron saint of newspaper columnists. This brave reporter covered World War II from the front-lines, killed by a Japanese sniper on April 18, 1945.
With the onset of so many newspapers’ demise and writers being laid off, blogging has become a major influence in reporting and opinion writing. The journalistic standards Ernie Pyle followed are needed more now than ever in the face of alternative facts and outright lies being propagated by anyone who knows how to boot up a computer. Thankfully, newspapers, like the Orlando Sentinel, are still viable and a go-to source for the truth and responsible opinion pieces.
I’m inspired by people like Rick Brunson, educating prospective journalists at the University of Central Florida, and Christal Hayes, a former student of Rick’s, who, early in her newspaper career, was faced with the monumental task of covering the country’s worst massacre at the Pulse Nightclub. She can add being part of a team which was a finalist for the recent Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News Reporting to her resume. (Check out Poynter’s article about how the Orlando Sentinel handled reporting the event with one third of the staff it once had.)
So, send your favorite columnist, whether in print or online, a fan email and let them know how much they are appreciated on this day of recognition. In a world of internet trolls, a few positive words will go a long way to show appreciation for truth in journalism.