Kelly Alley

If you think this column is a day early, you would be right.

Why have I broken my traditional Friday publishing schedule this week, of all weeks? Well, it’s National Columnists’ Day! Bet you didn’t even know this was a holiday, huh?

I am absolutely thrilled about this particular day, and not just because I can finally celebrate it myself. National Columnists’ Day doesn’t just honor the columnists of today. It also brings attention to the life and work of one columnist in particular and my personal favorite: Ernie Pyle.

National Columnists’ Day was started by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists to honor Pyle’s legacy and to celebrate today’s columnists. It is held every year on April 18th, the same day that Pyle was fatally shot in 1945 while covering soldiers’ experience in the Pacific.

Pyle was a roving reporter and war correspondent best known for his column during World War II. Syndicated around the U.S. by the Scripps-Howard newspaper alliance, his column was read by thousands of readers during this time. His column gave the folks back home snapshots of war and let them know how their boys were doing overseas.

Not to get too sappy, but Pyle’s column is one of the reasons I decided to step foot in the world of journalism. The other reason is because I am inept at most things mathematical.

One of the first columns by Pyle I read began by talking about that steady breeze that seems to never end in the Midwest. Later in that column he goes on to tell a story about flowers and snakes of all things. It’s a beautiful piece though, speckled with a witty sort of humor and doused in a certain “Aw, shucks” humility we seem to be missing today.

That was Pyle’s signature style, writing in a way everyday folks could understand. He wrote, as many of his readers would echo, “the way people talk.” Although this style was most prominent in his often-referenced war column, it made its humble appearance in his late-1920s aviation columns and grew during his late-1930s travel columns.

That’s something I’ve tried to emulate throughout the course of the Wondering Wanderer column, although I think Pyle did a better job of it in his Roving Reporter column.

Today doesn’t just honor Pyle: It honors all columnists from all walks of life, from the past, present and probably even those in the future.

Personally, I am proud to call myself a columnist. Sure, we don’t all tackle the hard-hitting political thoughts in our columns, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Every now and then you need a break from all that hullaballoo anyways.

Our columnists at the Daily Beacon are a diverse bunch, commenting on topics anywhere from food to movies to what it is like being a nontraditional college student. Occasionally we even have a rip-roaring band of political and sports columnists, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Send a word of thanks to the columnists around you today. Believe it or not, it’s a hard job trying to come up with a thought-provoking piece and have it ready by a deadline weekly or bi-weekly. My gosh it’s rewarding job though, especially when people tell you they’ve read your column.

Instead of the usual snappy ending I tend to leave, I’m going to tell a joke I picked up in one Pyle’s personal letters from the 1930s:

“Did you hear about the shepherd who broke his arm downtown? He was trying to make a ‘ewe’ turn!”

Kelly Alley is a junior studying Journalism and Electronic Media. She can be reached at kalley2@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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