The last session I attended today was “Writing Political Columns,” led by James Varney, a conservative political columnist from The Times-Picayune and NOLA.com. Mostly, Varney talked about his own experiences and how he went about securing his current job, but I did take away a few fact nuggets about what it takes to write strong political columns.
Varney emphasized the importance of columns in terms of online content because they often receive more comments than other sections. People tend to read and pay more attention to the issues that they care about. When someone expresses an opinion about a controversial issue, readers feel compelled to stay on the page longer.
He also underscored that, as a columnist, there isn’t usually a lot of middle ground when it comes to popularity. People usually either love or hate newspaper columnists. Dealing with positive and negative responses, he says, is all part of the job. Varney advised students to keep an open mind if someone has a valid critique, but for the rest of the nonsensical reactions, he says to let them go
Finally, having covered a variety of topics and issues before taking on his current position as a columnist, Varney advises aspiring columnists to use their reporting skills to create a solid argument. He emphasized the importance of researching the matter at hand before attempting to take a stance.