What is a Columnist?

A columnist is someone who writes short essays and commentaries on a regular basis for publication. Columnists may work for radio and television stations, but they are more commonly associated with newspapers and magazines. Although a columnist is a type of journalist, he or she is not bound the expected journalistic ethics of neutrality, and a column does not always contain news.

Columnists typically write on a weekly, monthly, or daily basis, with material for publication every week, month, or day. Every time they’re published, they’re in the same section, usually under the same heading, such as “News and Notes” for a columnist who covers community events. They may write under their real names or a pen name, such as “Miss Manners” for Judith Martin, a well-known etiquette columnist. Some columnists write exclusively for syndication, while others work for a single news organization, and their columns may be reprinted with permission from their employers.

To lighten the news and keep readers occupied and engaged, columnists used to focus primarily on humorous pieces, which could include political satire, jokes, or other forms of humor. Columnists began to diversify their topics over time, and now they write about food, fashion, gossip, and lighthearted community news. As a critic, a columnist may write a regular column on a topic of interest, such as film or art.

Some columnists make a habit of including letters from readers in their columns. For example, advice columnists take reader requests for advice and assistance and respond to them in a regular column. A columnist can also use a column to educate readers; for example, a gardening column might include responses to reader questions about plant identification. Submissions from readers can also be used to disseminate information or organize community gatherings.

Editorials are frequently presented in a column format as well. A columnist in an editorial commentary is usually quite opinionated, discussing a current issue or news items. Editorial columnists can also write election endorsements, provide information for citizens interested in participating in specific causes, or provide a forum for debate, as in the case of a publication with two opposing columnists who duel over a topic in a jointly-produced column.

Because the daily burden of producing a column can be quite significant, working as a columnist necessitates good writing skills and a strong work ethic. Some columnists begin their careers as journalists, while others may be approached about becoming a columnist due to their expertise in a particular field. An economist, for example, might be asked to write a weekly column for newspaper readers on economic issues.