Prolific Daily columnist bids a fond farewell to 4 years of opining

Today is Thursday. For the last four years, barring some unfortunate mishap like a gigantic photo of Goldy Gopher taking up valuable word space, my biweekly column has appeared in The Minnesota Daily on Fridays. And in fact, I will have a column in Friday’s paper. But today, my column is for a different reason. After four years and more than 50 columns for the Daily, Friday will be my last official piece as a columnist.

Four years is an infinitesimally small drop in the bucket compared to the decades-long careers of journalists I admire, such as Daniel Schorr. But four years as a columnist for a college newspaper makes me something of a silver-backed gorilla amongst the staff. And I need to finish my doctoral dissertation, so it seems now is a good time to exit.

As I thought about what to write for this, my special goodbye column, several thoughts came to mind. I generally loathe when journalists decide it’s necessary to pen that final farewell where they give glorious verse to their tumultuous career. My time at the Daily has been neither tumultuous nor glorious. Time after time, people I know (or who recognized my name) would tell me how the Daily was either part of a right-wing conspiracy and/or run by the central committee of the American Communist Party. I will say right now, for the record, neither accusation is true.

This newspaper is run by something far more nefarious: a group of college students. Yet, the Daily, for all its warts, is an excellent college newspaper – a great deal better than most collegiate newspapers in the United States. That said, things have changed quite a bit over the last four years.

I have witnessed the column space we columnists are allotted whittled down for various reasons and watched my columnist pay rate cut in half. The arts and entertainment section was tragically eviscerated the first year I wrote for the Daily (the subject of my inaugural column) and now it’s back in full, which is a good thing. Most recently the paper itself has changed its layout and it was a change I was prepared to not like – but I do. All said and done, I have loved every minute I spent writing these columns, a lot more than I thought I ever would. More than anything, over the last four years I have been given the chance to think out loud, in print, for an audience of readers.

Every once in a while someone will ask what kind of e-mail responses I received from a certain column. In most cases, everything I got was a 50/50 love-hate margin. An occasional message would pop up from someone who really, really did not like anything I had to say and those messages, I must admit, were my favorites. Something about thinly veiled threats of violence made me realize I was doing a good job. Quite honestly, however, the one comment I consistently received from people of all political persuasions, ethnic backgrounds, socio-economic brackets, really anyone who has ever read my column and seen the photo of my smiling face above is this: I am much larger in person than my picture suggests.

I am not making this up. In fact, the one comment I could always count on hearing over the last four years from even my trusted editors and fellow Daily staff members was, “You look a lot smaller in your picture.” I think it’s the glasses. For the record, I am 6 feet 4 inches and weigh 220 pounds. OK, maybe 225, but I like to think of my weight as an average over the last four years. On a few occasions being a big and tall man has worked to my advantage, especially when encountering other, usually, small and short men who would talk about how much they disliked my politics. On those few occasions when I identified myself to these Napoleonic critics standing near my navel, I suddenly didn’t seem like such a bad guy in their eyes. Indeed.

I want to thank a particular group of people who never get the respect they deserve, and in fact remain largely invisible to the public. These people are the editors I have worked with over the last four years: Samantha Pace, Matthew Brophy, Amy Hackbarth, Erik Nelson, Shannon Fiecke and Jennifer Selvig. Without a doubt, each of these editors has made my columns a lot more readable, and more importantly kept hiring me back each year. So to them I say many thanks.

And finally, dearest readers, I say goodbye. To be honest, I wrote these columns for myself. Strangely, and along the way, you kept reading these words. I am deeply flattered by your biweekly attention, and I will miss it.

John Troyer’s quirky mug shot will be sadly missed, but for today he still welcomes comments at [email protected]