Copy editors ... write more columns

Copy editor Matt Sober says that his column might be considered a humor column but that “people who watch a lot of Fox News don’t seem to see it that way.” He refers to his column as a general interest column, with topics ranging from sports to politics to an epic confrontation with a clogged toilet.

The column runs in the Friday features section of the Valley News Dispatch, a suburban Pittsburgh daily, and then it's picked up by the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Sober writes the column on his own time and is paid for it as a freelancer.

Sober says that he had to be talked into writing a column because “it seemed a bit presumptuous to think that anyone would be interested in my opinions. Furthermore, there are very few things that make me angry enough to truly care, and I knew instinctively that I lacked the moral outrage to rant about anything more egregious than poor spelling on restaurant marquees.”

However, Sober adds that his “whimsy” gives his writing “a little credibility on the rare occasions I do take up a subject of consequence, such as the war in Iraq. I am particularly proud of several pointed columns that take issue with people who are quite enthusiastic about the war but don't really have anything at stake — namely a son or daughter.”

The toughest part of writing a column, he says, is coming up with topics. “I take the responsibility seriously,” he says, “and I do my best to avoid being self-indulgent. Some columns make you wonder whether the writer understands the distinction between a newspaper column and diary.

“Humor columns can be especially tricky in this regard, given the fact that they're often based on firsthand experiences. Obviously, the question that needs to be satisfied is whether readers can relate to the experience. To be honest, sometimes I feel like the column has run its course. That said, I kind of need the extra cash at this point, seeing as how I've recently become a homeowner (an excellent source of material, incidentally). And I also must admit that it's sincerely gratifying when people are kind enough to say they enjoy my work.”

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