John Colson: A few words on why I do what I do
Hit & Run
I get some pretty interesting responses to my weekly columns, always have, and sometimes to my work as a news reporter, which essentially ended when I retired from reporting a couple of years ago.
In my 40-plus years of writing regular articles and opinion pieces for different newspapers in the region, responses have covered the gamut from veiled threats of mayhem and assault against my person, to pleas for “nice” pieces about the “good works” being done by denizens of our valley, to condemnation of my political opinions and requests that I just shut the hell up.
The threats, I should point out, mainly showed up in the “comments” section of a newspaper I worked for a while ago. They came from critics of my news coverage (not opinion writing) of the burgeoning oil and gas industry in Garfield County and Colorado as a whole.
My critics back then, around five to 10 years ago, basically were reacting to the fact that I did not simply regurgitate the fawning press releases from industry PR flacks, or the industry-friendly announcements from certain state regulators.
Regulators back then saw their job as more properly focused on promoting oil and gas drilling than on safeguarding public health, an unhealthy arrangement that has thankfully been overturned by the Legislature and our governor, but only after our state’s news outlets hammered away at the industry’s obfuscations and misinformation to get at the truth about health hazards, economic stability and the spewing of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, among other topics.
The tone and number of those threats I received back then, interestingly, fell off sharply after the newspaper I worked for at the time instituted a requirement that the “comments” function attached to articles must identify the sender.
These days, the feedback is all about this column, and last week I got an email recently from a reader (I won’t name him, but he seems to be a local) who praised my recent column about photographer and activist Pete McBride’s heroic hike a few years ago that took him the full length of the Grand Canyon National Park in several episodes.
“One of your best columns,” the correspondent wrote. “More of these, and less stupid political columns.”
Another email, along similar lines, came from a longtime local female reader, asking me how it is that I never tire of criticizing President Donald Trump, and arguing that he was elected by the people and that I should simply accept it and do nice columns about kids and animals and other fluffy stuff.
Thank you both for your observations and suggestions. You are not alone in hoping I will leave off my political commentary and stick to less salty subjects. Unfortunately (in your estimation, at least), I cannot comply.
I know that many of my less-supportive readers wish I would just shut up, perhaps imagining that fulminations from left-leaning columnists might somehow get in the way of Trump & Co.’s plans to do everything they can to destroy our national government and replace it with some version of corporate, right-wing dominance forever.
The problem is, I don’t think that would be good for our country’s future, and I firmly believe that most of our country agrees with me. Proof of my belief already has come to us, in the form of the results of the 2016 election — Trump lost the popular vote by some 3 million ballots.
And while I am not so egotistical as to believe that whatever I write will have any kind of major impact on national politics or policies, I happen to have the U.S. Constitution on my side when I insist on writing what I believe, and what I hope others also believe.
I also should note that I get plenty of supportive messages in response to my columns, to the point that I feel completely justified in that aforementioned insistence.
I am sometimes asked why I don’t concentrate on more local issues and personalities, and my answer to that has typically been to point out that there are a number of columnists and reporters in local news outlets who do just that kind of thing every week, and do it well.
Given that reality, I don’t think I need to dip into the same pool when I’m searching for topics, though I occasionally do so when the mood strikes me — such as the piece about McBride’s marathon hike down the Grand Canyon.
And I do think that, by taking aim at more regional or national issues, I provide something to readers here and elsewhere that they might appreciate, want or need — a voice that calls for social, economic and political justice that is sadly lacking in the workings of the current presidential administration.
In that light, I will keep doing what I’ve been doing:
• Pointing it out when our public officials are lying through their teeth in order to gain political points or provide cover for other politicians caught in lies of their own;
• Demanding that our government provide for the safety, security and economic well-being of the majority of U.S. citizens rather than a narrow slice of very wealthy people at the top;
• Insist that our national government take the reins of environmental stewardship to preserve a livable world for the coming generations rather than hand everything over to short-sighted corporate interests whose only motivation is profit for themselves and their shareholders;
• And any other issue that I think is not getting sufficient attention from national or regional traditional media outlets.
I write for a small readership, it is true, but just because there aren’t that many of them is no reason to shirk my duty to state the truth as I see it, and hope that at least some of them consider it worthy enough to read it.
Email at email@example.com.