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Brother Mark is a pseudonym of The Reverend Dr Robert Jaggs-Fowler, a clergyman, physician, writer and poet. His biography can be found at: www.robertjaggsfowler.com

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A Columnist’s Life

'Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.'

    Thus wrote George Orwell in his 1946 book, Why I Write. His words will no doubt find support and understanding amongst many readers and writers alike. It might be construed that one raison d'être of newspapers in general is to see through such political rhetoric and bring to the public's attention the hidden aspects and undertones of a news story. That was certainly the reason behind my recent column on the subject of the current reforms to the National Health Service (Scunthorpe Telegraph, Friday 1st April 2011). The article may have appeared on April Fools' Day, but readers of this newspaper are not foolish. Recognising the truth when they read it, the feedback from you in response to that particular article has been considerable.

    All of which leads me to the question as to why I write a column in the first place. Many questions abound in the minds of columnists (at least they do in the brain of this particular one): What purpose does the column serve? Does anyone (apart from my mother) actually read the articles? What should I write about? Do people care what I write about? Are there particular issues that interest people more than others? Those are just some of the thoughts which pass through my brain on a weekly basis as I sit in my cold and draughty garret tapping away at the keyboard.

    The answers to my many and varied questions are less readily accessible than the original queries. It is certainly the case that my editor cares about the subjects I choose; otherwise I would have my copies returned to sender with a red reject stamp accompanied by a large redundancy cheque (do I hear my editor saying 'dream on'?). Ostensibly, my column is supposed to be health-orientated; which on most occasions it succeeds in being, even if it does take a few detours through the world of poetry and literature. However, there, as Shakespeare's Hamlet would say, lies the rub. Whilst many people throughout Northern Lincolnshire have taken the trouble to write or speak to me in person in order to express their views on the column's subject matter, their desires in respect to the future content of the column seems to be quite varied. Some would like to see more on medical politics; others appreciate my occasional attempt at humour, whilst a further group wish I would write more about poetry and literature, even to the extent of requesting that I publish my own poems in the column. Ultimately, my editor has the final say in such matters, and unless I am commissioned to write on a different subject matter, the column has to continue (in respect to my own commission) to be health-orientated. However, I do promise to try and take the occasional meander into other, more erudite pastures to try and satisfy everyone. After all, you, the readers, are the final arbitrators over whether the column is worthwhile and meeting your needs. So, please do keep the feedback coming in and, in turn, I promise to continue burning the midnight oil for you. Meanwhile, a Happy Easter to you all.

First published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, Easter 2011

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