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Columnist celebrates nine years penning his thoughts

TimesLedger Newspapers

Early in 2003, TimesLedger Newspapers printed a notice that it was looking for columnists. More than 300 columns and a few blogs later, here is the story about how this flack came to be a columnist.

I saw the request in the Richmond Hill Times and decided to give it a shot. I called and made an appointment with Steve Blank, then the publisher. He and I knew each other from having served as active members on the board of the American Lung Association of Queens.

I met with Steve and Roz Liston, then the managing editor, for a chat. They told me I could write about anything as long as there was something about Queens in the column. In newspaper lingo, this is known as “the hook.”

I figured I could do that. I had lived in Queens since I was 11. I wrote for and edited the Queens Post for a number of years. My working life could be described as being in what is now known as “communications.” I was retired and had the time to write.

One caveat: I told Steve and Roz that I was an Unreconstructed New Deal Democrat, although I would try to be balanced in any political opinions. They did not think this was a problem.

So, nine years ago this month, I started a column, which I titled, “I Sit and Look Out,” the first line of a short poem by Walt Whitman. I had done honors work at City College and my master’s thesis on Whitman at Columbia University and I knew of his work as a school teacher and reporter and editor on Long Island and in Manhattan and Queens before “Leaves of Grass” was published in 1855.

Steve sold the newspaper chain a few years ago to the Community Newspaper Group, part of News Corp., headed by Rupert Murdoch. But as far as I am concerned, there has been no change in policy. I have never been told what to write or what not to write. If my copy has been edited, it is for space requirements only and there has never been an attempt to change my point of view.

That goes for my blog, No Holds Barred, which started not long ago. Indeed, Roz, now the newspapers’ editor, asked me to be “provocative.” Whether I have been or not is for you to decide.

It has been a pleasure to work with Roz and her staff, all fine professionals. Like Murdoch, I happen to love newspapers. I am something of a Luddite when it comes to the electronic age, although I can appreciate the progress.

But the feel of a newspaper in my hands and the ability to turn back to a story if I want to and to clip it and save it for future reference is in my blood, I guess.

And there is compensation for the column. It is not a fortune, by any means, but it has allowed me to make occasional small gifts of money to such organizations as the Alley Pond Environmental Center, the Queens Botanical Garden, Trees New York and the Green Guerrillas. I commend these groups to your attention and hope you will support them. They do important work for all of us every day.

We have not discussed any payments for my blog, but any dollars from them will continue to go to organizations which need every dollar they can get.

It has been, for me, a happy nine years. I hope I have written some interesting columns and some provocative blogs. It is something I look forward to continue doing and I hope you will look forward to it, too.

Thank you, Roz, staff and kind reader!

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