June 16, 2011

My pledge: Keep it simple

By Anthony Ronzio tronzio@centralmaine.com
Editor and Publisher

The blinking cursor on my screen taunts me. "I told you, writing is the easy part," it says. "It's having something to say that's difficult."

How true. In approaching this column -- my first as a professional writer, after many years of writing unsigned editorials -- I've tossed around several possible themes. First was a column about journalism, which is not only my passion, but is also experiencing a fascinating identity crisis.

But even I tire of the regular hand-wringing about the future of journalism. Nobody wants to hear the village blacksmith bemoaning life in the smithy; would anyone wish to hear me kvetch about newspapering?

My next idea was a slice-of-life column, focusing on my life, my family, my pathetic golf game and the various misadventures that come from owning a home. (Example: About four years ago, I redefined "handy" by nearly losing my left one in a snowblower.)

Unfortunately, this approach would involve making my family's life quasi-public, which my lovely children and their long-suffering mother would not tolerate for long. They want me home for supper more, not retelling our personal anecdotes in print.

(Nevertheless, their wit and wisdom will make it into this space. I'm outmanned by females 5-1 in my house, a figure that includes the cat. I learn something new each day.)

So, by process of elimination, the theme for my weekly column will be simple. I'm going to write what I think, about something I think is interesting. This is my pledge to readers, and I expect to be told whether I'm living up to it.

I promise never to be long-winded. (There's nothing worse than staying longer than one's invited.) I also promise never to be predictable. (The difference between column-writing and blogging is the chance to think. I will make the most of that chance.)

I also vow never to fall into tired political debates over left-right, conservative-liberal, or Republican-Democrat. For the record, I'm a registered independent. I have voted for politicians of all flavors. I think politics requires some affinity and identity, but not strict labels.

I will espouse some strongly held beliefs. A fair, impartial press is a cornerstone of our democracy. A newspaper should never be a demagogue. Governments work best when officials remember they've only won elections, not popularity contests. County governments belong in a museum.

And I agree with Oliver Wendell Holmes that taxes purchase civilization. So, I never begrudge paying my fair share. I only request that my city, county, state and country keep the receipt, so I can maybe return what they've bought. (I'm still waiting.)

Most of all, I want to tell readers just how thrilled I am to have this opportunity at this time, and in this place. I came to Maine as a fresh-faced kid straight from college. I thought I'd stay for a few months, and I've now been here almost 10 years.

There is an irresistible magic to Maine. It has a siren song for those from away. It also has a sensation of remoteness and confinement that can drive people -- especially youth -- away. In short, this place is not for everyone. I am proud to say that it is the place for me.

Oh, and finally, the column's name: True Sentences. It comes from my favorite writer, Ernest Hemingway, whose advice to struggling scribes was plain.

"All you have do to is write one true sentence," he said. "Write the truest sentence you know."

Words to write by. I hope you enjoy what you'll read.

* * *

Note to readers: Starting this week, there has been a subtle shift in our columnist line-up. This column will appear Thursday. Mike Tipping and David Offer (who, like me, is a Rhode Island transplant to Maine) will alternate Tuesdays. Kay Rand, Liz Soares, Theo Kalikow and John Frary -- yes, that John Frary -- will appear on Sunday.

Several new syndicated columnists will also appear, with the goal of providing balanced, thoughtful views on current events. More on those names to come.

Other popular columnists -- George Smith, Joseph Reisert, Denis Thoet -- will appear as scheduled. We're also expanding our room for opinion essays from the community, so if you've got one in you, send it over.

The opinion page is a newspaper's kitchen table.

I invite you to pull up a seat.

Anthony Ronzio is the editor and publisher of the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel. Reach him at aronzio@mainetoday.com, @ronzio on Twitter, or at 207-621-5678.

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