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Twelve years, 100 columns and 78,245 words later

Larry French • May 20, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed by all Community Voices columnists are their own and do not necessary reflect the official positions of the Johnson City Press.

Everything happens for a reason. Nothing happens by chance or by means of good luck. Illness, injury, love, lost moments of true greatness & sheer stupidity all occur to test the limits of your soul. Without this small test, whatever they may be, life would be like a smoothly paved, straight, flat road to nowhere. It would be safe and comfortable, but dull and utterly pointless. — Unknown

Yes, “Everything happens for a reason.”

For instance, take one early spring day in 2006 when Robert Houk, then Opinion page editor of this newspaper, approached me with a rather interesting proposal: become a Community Voices columnist.

Having been affiliated with the newspaper industry since 1961, it didn’t take long to accept Houk’s offer.

And, as a journalist, I was fully aware of the consequences that come with writing for a newspaper. Furthermore, I understood my principles and would not embarrass the paper.

My first column appeared on June 18, 2006, where readers were given this initial fair warning. At times, my columns would appear conservative and at other times liberal, but only in the interest of raising the public’s awareness level. Provided their awareness level could be raised. My columns, however, would not be stupid simply because “sheer stupidity ... test(s) the limits of (one’s) soul.”

Along the way I’ve offered my opinions and thoughts on a variety of topics including, but not limited to, politics, war, pestilence, music, motion pictures, memorials, celebrations, holidays, nature, sports, humor, national security, education and healthcare.

As a matter of fact, only once in the past 12 years did I find it necessary to write a column aimed precisely at two individuals because of their mudslinging and questionable remarks. And just in case they’ve conveniently forgotten, here’s an edited and summarized version.

I found it insulting when you had the insolence to email me and claim I was a “racist.”

Those glaring and disgusting tones left me no alternative but to set you and your misguided remarks straight and send you merrily on your way, which I judiciously did.

And, for that unknowing and troubled soul from Elizabethton, who never attended one of my classes at East Tennessee State University, and whose superfluous endeavor was to discredit me as an instructor, it was nothing less than a preconceived notion and an unsubstantiated opinion. Therefore, your superfluous endeavor remains an unsubstantiated opinion.

Being a journalist, however, is not a “safe” profession, per se, nor is it a “comfortable” one. It takes tenacity, courage, guts and grit; but above all it takes perseverance. It’s a profession that doesn’t offer one a “smoothly paved” road and one that’s not always “straight” or “flat” either, which in essence would be rather “dull and utterly pointless.” And, it doesn’t “(happen) by chance or means of good luck;” it happens by sheer conviction and self-confidence.

In other words, “(Columns happen) for a reason.”

There are, of course, sometimes when our readers question certain columns that happen for unknown reasons, too.

Yes, journalists, editors, publishers and columnists alike occasionally fail the litmus tests of opinion writing when they take pen-in-hand. Basically, their writing is a waste of good ink.

At times, even this newspaper is guilty of wasting good ink.

The same applies to those who continually and currently limit their so-called skills to one nondescript topic while writing under the pretense of journalism. Their columns are redundant, repetitive and nothing more than self-serving agendas as they seek to sway our reader’s thoughts and opinions in their fallacious direction.

They are also an embarrassment to the profession of journalism.

And that, gentle readers, is, and will remain, this journalist’s opinion.

So, as long as my mailbox remains upright, I’m not hung in effigy, and the heat in the kitchen doesn’t become too unbearable, I’ll continue writing and remain steadfast to my profession.

My sincere thanks to Robert Houk for his initial proposal, and to the editors of the Johnson City Press for giving this journalist from Arkansas — who in 1961 began his journey delivering newspapers from a bicycle — the opportunity to be part of our Community Voices. It’s been one hell-of-a ride.

Indeed, “Everything happens for a reason.”

Larry French lives in Butler. He is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and teaches composition and literature at East Tennessee State University. You may reach him at [email protected]

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