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Column writing is concentrated storytelling

Conversation seems to be what is missing from today's social media landscape, writes Marshall Ward

Bonn Park podcast co-host and Waterloo Chronicle columnist Marshall Ward

I have been writing a weekly newspaper column for the Waterloo Chronicle for 17 years this April, and lately I've been reflecting on the great experiences that have come along with it.

For my column, I’ve interviewed artists and musicians and scientists; I’ve written about gardening and fatherhood and sports; I’ve attended a cremation, visited farms and chatted with some of my childhood heroes.

With each column, I hope to give readers some interesting perspectives on topics they may otherwise not encounter.

It is a privilege to have a platform like this to connect with my community, and I do not take it lightly.

I’ve always seen columns as concentrated storytelling. What led me to writing my column, I believe, is that I have always loved storytelling, in all its forms. What I try to do in my column space each week is tell a short story.

What I never imagined when I first started writing my column was how profoundly it would make me feel connected to the community.

I often hear from readers — sometimes via email, sometimes a chance encounter at the supermarket — who say they feel like they know me after all these years of columns.

Longtime Waterloo resident Jacqueline Schweitzer and her sister Joan mail me beautiful handwritten letters and cards several times a year, always with an uplifting and encouraging message regarding my writing.

That's incredibly humbling, because writing a weekly column can sometimes be a daunting challenge. Before I ever type a word, I ask myself: will readers be interested in this? Can I offer a fresh perspective?

I'm under no delusions that every column will resonate with every reader. If everyone shared the same viewpoints, there would be no point in having opinion columns at all.

What I've always strived to do with my column is tell a short story that, in the best-case scenario, informs, entertains and sparks conversation.

Conversation seems to be what is missing from today's social media landscape, where opinions are blurted out via tweet and discussion quickly descends into trolling. Although newspapers don't hold the place of prominence they once did, they remain important to any local community.

It is hard to believe that 17 years have passed since I started writing my column in the Waterloo Chronicle. That's hundreds and hundreds of columns, meaning I have shared my perspectives on hundreds of topics, at least some of which I hope have meant something to you.

Looking back, I'm blown away by how much this column has meant to me.

To everyone who has read my works over the past 17 years, thank you. And see you next week.



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