What does a Newspaper Columnist do?

A newspaper columnist writes a regular column that varies in length, frequency, and content, depending on the newspaper section in which it appears. A newspaper columnist’s goal is to present a consistent argument or analysis of a specific topic within the column’s overall genre. For example, a columnist in the arts and entertainment section of a newspaper might write a column about the latest cultural events in the readership area, or a columnist in the finance section might write a column about money-saving tips. Humor columns, for example, can frequently veer nonsensically in topic from the beginning to the end of the column for comedic purposes.

An editor is more likely to assign topics to a newspaper columnist who is just starting out in journalism and has not yet established a name in the field. Columnists with a reputation and a voice in journalism are usually given more leeway in all aspects of their columns, including the ability to choose the topic and direction of each one. An established newspaper columnist has a better chance of becoming syndicated, which means that his or her column appears in newspapers all over the world, whereas emerging columnists usually only appear in one newspaper. Because newspaper publishing leaves little room for deadline flexibility, both new and established columnists are expected to stick to strict deadlines.

Although the majority of newspaper columnists appear weekly, others appear bi-weekly, monthly, or at other regular intervals. The newspaper columnist is constantly gathering information and forming opinions on the topic of the next column during these intervals. A newspaper columnist is subject to the same rules and ethics that apply to any journalist, such as laws against libel and plagiarism. He is expected to conduct the same level of research on the facts presented in the column as a reporter or editor would. Although many newspapers employ photographers and illustrators, some columnists prefer to illustrate their columns with their own photographs or artwork.

Depending on the theme, some newspaper columns are more interactive than others. Letters from the public with etiquette or relationship questions, for example, are solicited advice columns and published alongside the columnist’s thoughts and suggestions. Letters from the public are frequently solicited in astrology columns and DIY home renovation columns. The more well-known or iconic a newspaper columnist becomes, the more opportunities he has to branch out into other forms of media like radio, television, film, and the internet.