We owe much to the columnist, though we often do not think of them, Columnists Day is dedicated to these wonderful individuals and what they bring to our lives. A columnist is an individual who produces written works that will be published in a series, generally offering commentary and opinions on current events or topics such as love, relationships, and careers. Columnists tend to have a following of people who actively look forward to reading their piece every day, and one of the most famous columnists ever is “Dear Abby”, though there’s a secret to be revealed about that one before this piece is over.
While traditionally columnists were writers and their works were delivered through a written medium, with the popularity of radio and television in the 30’s and 40’s, some of them took their written columns on the air. They would respond to everything from housekeeping advice to the best places to go fishing, or just how to handle difficult children. It was a growing field and all sorts of new things were being tried, with Hollywood Gossip being one of the most popular bits of content by far. In some ways not a lot has changed.
Gossip columnists have been around as long as there have been people to talk about, and a place to write it down. In the 30’s and 40’s there was no greater feared journalist than Walter Winchell. He was an expert at leveraging his political and social connections, as well as those in the entertainment industries, to collect information on people of interest to the general public. He would sometimes reveal the secrets he dug up through his efforts, or leverage that information further to obtain even deeper secrets by trading or blackmailing his way to better fodder.
Such was the influence of gossip columnists that movie studios would try to get them to report favorably on them and their works, recognizing that the power of these columnists to influence the minds of their fans could be used as an incredibly effective merchandising tool. The techniques used back then are still in effect today, and if you watch the big blockbusters that are coming into theaters, and cross-check the gossip coming out with the stars in those films, you’ll often notice they coincide. It has often been said that there’s no such thing as bad publicity, and the romantic scandals reported on by Hollywood Gossip Columnists prove it in the box office numbers.
Earlier we discussed advice columnists, and no matter where you are in the world one of the first to come to mind is Dear Abby. Referenced in movies, magazines, even music, Dear Abby was and remains an incredibly influential and recognizable name among advice columnists. In Britain advice columnists are commonly called Agony Aunts (Or Uncles), calling for the idea of an older woman who has a lifetime of advice to draw on to give comfort, and a maternal wisdom she can share.
These kinds of columns are often sought as a venue to offer ideas and concepts on ones interests. There is really no restriction on who can become an advice columnist, as the only real requirement is an opinion, and the willingness to share it with those who contact you. Columnists like Dear Abby were so popular that they achieved Hollywood Walk of Fame status, and have existed beyond their original writer. There it is, the secret you were promised. The original “Dear Abby”, Pauline Phillips, has passed her pen on to her daughter Jeanne Phillips. While the well known face of “Dear Abby” remains on the columns, a new generation has picked up the Pseudonym and carries it forth.
Columnist day is best celebrated by picking up a newspaper or magazine, and recognizing the place that columnists of all sorts take in our lives. You can write in for a piece of advice to an Agony Aunt or Dear Abby, or there are internet venues where emails can be sent in looking for solid advice from experienced people. If you’re already a fan of a columnist, it’s never a bad idea to send a thank you note or even a bouquet of flowers thanking them for all they do!