On the alternate Wednesday when the Yale Daily News runs my columns, I only tentatively make eye contact with people at breakfast. I never quite know what reaction to expect. Some of my friends don’t even read my favorite columns (they’re too “dry”), while I’ve been showered with compliments for pieces I’ve churned out with little inspiration and less effort. The irony can be frustrating.
It’s difficult writing columns for a college newspaper. National and international issues are dangerous topics for fear of regurgitating the New York Times Op-Ed Page. Yale issues are hardly better — there’s only so much insight to be shared about Gourmet Heaven, sweatshops and whatever else is in fashion at the moment.
Columnists are supposed to be liberal or conservative — or apolitical. I happen to be liberal, but out of no conscious design, I’ve noticed my columns do not strongly reflect my left-of-center politics. Yale’s a liberal place, so writing mainstream columns on mainstream issues hardly adds to the dialogue. And that realization has made me realize why I’ve enjoyed the experience of being a columnist so much.
I write columns to challenge people and ideas. It broadens the scope of what people discuss and makes them think about issues they might otherwise ignore. I like writing for the Opinion-Editorial Page because it opens my mind a great deal. I hope reading what I have to say has opened yours, if only a bit.
John Schochet is a senior in Jonathan Edwards College.