Trust, partnership with you are worth striving for

My first editorial of 2017, which appeared in our Jan. 4 issue of Siuslaw News, was inspired by an unanticipated trip through our local history while sorting through old newspapers — and an opportunity to underscore the importance of trust and integrity in journalism…

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January 4, 2017

imageI spent part of my New Year’s weekend here in the newsroom, tackling a re-organization project of files and materials that have been staring at me for nearly a decade — the gaze of which grew stronger after becoming editor in September.

The project entailed sifting through boxes of old newspaper issues, special publications, documents, journalistic guidelines and historic reference materials that had been collecting along a wall of shelves in our newsroom since the late 1990s.

With 2017 looming, it seemed like the perfect time to sort through the past in order to benefit our newsroom’s future. Coincidentally, it also got me out of washing the dog, but you didn’t read that here.  Continue reading

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The danger of forgetting our ‘Date of Infamy’

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imageI was nine years old the last time our nation fired a shot while openly declaring war with another nation. And while we have certainly spent the majority of the last few decades fighting abroad and sacrificing the lives of our young men and women in places like Kuwait, Qatar, Baghdad and Syria, the horrific attacks of Sept. 11 are the closest that many of my generation have come to experiencing war first-hand.

As a child, I was only peripherally aware of the Vietnam War and even less so of the Korean War, which ended before I was born. Yet, as the last shot was being fired in Vietnam, I already knew what Pearl Harbor was.

I knew how, on Dec. 7, 1941, a quiet Sunday morning was transformed into a fiery nightmare by Japanese planes that claimed the lives of more than 2,400 servicemen.

I knew about the USS Arizona, and how in less than nine minutes more than 1,000 men became entombed in the wreckage that now rests like a shadow below the harbor’s surface.

I also knew it was a morning filled with as many acts of heroism and sacrifice as there were moments of the horrific. Over the years, images in text books, commemorative issues from publications like Time magazine and stories captured in movies impressed upon me the virtues of valor.  Continue reading

My pearls of writing wisdom are now totally shucked

Now available by clicking here! Or I can drive to your house with a copy...

Now available by clicking here! Or I can drive a copy to your house…

Yesterday afternoon it became official! Any typos that I, my publisher or book editor may have missed are now on their way to the printers, where they will live forever in black and white to haunt me at book festivals, workshops and conventions.

“Hey Mr. Hickson! Will you sign my book on page 50, right above where it says ‘If you want to be a writer, you can never give up dope?'”

All joking aside, after reading through it for the final time before signing off on it for my publisher, I pushed the “send” button feeling truly excited to share this book. While my weekly columns and blog posts are certainly an extension of me, this book is even more personal because it’s an opportunity to take what I’ve learned over the last 16 years and share it directly with other writers (as opposed to just sitting in a bar and mumbling to whoever’s next to me).  Continue reading

Getting started as a columnist (or why I avoid Rhode Island)

Note: As I promised last week in my 100th post celebration (I understand some of still haven’t received your free Mexican mocha — sorry about that), here is the first installment from the writing and literary website Gliteray Girl, where I’m a regular contributor on the subject of writing. They wouldn’t let me contribute on the subject of sex therapy, so I went with the writing thing…

Coffee knocked over copy When I first started querying newspapers about carrying my column, I was getting one or two rejections in my email box every week. In frustration, I turned to the Internet and discovered, with a little planning and organization, I could be rejected by every newspaper in the state of Louisiana all in one afternoon.

In 2002, I began my unofficial “Internet promotional tour” across the United States by emailing a basic cover letter and a few sample columns to newspapers here in my home state of Oregon. Today, the column is running in 60 papers in 11 states and Canada. What follows are a few simple truths, mixed with some suggestions, that will help distinguish your email query from the hundreds of male enhancement offers editors receive each day. Continue reading

There’s nothing funny about being a firefighter… well, mostly

My cubby, complete with mint gum to wake me up for those late-night calls.

My cubby, complete with mint gum to wake me up for those late-night calls.

Anyone who has read my “About” page knows that, in addition to being a humor columnist, I’m also a volunteer firefighter — a subject I have purposely avoided in my columns because, let’s face it:

Entering a burning structure with someone who writes about glow-in-the-dark mice isn’t exactly reassuring.

For this reason, I have tried hard to separate my two pursuits. As I’ve discovered, this is a little like trying to separate marshmallows using a blow torch; the longer you keep at it, the more they blend together.

The truth is, once the emergency is over, firefighters are funny — which is why, after three years, many are still asking, “Why haven’t you written about being a firefighter yet?”

So to all of you, I say:

You asked for it. Continue reading

Be careful when picking a topic — especially if it’s your nose

Building a connection with readers has its drawbacks.

Building a connection with readers has its drawbacks.

From time to time, a column strikes a collective nerve with readers. These readers then respond — in many cases — by calling me collect. After my column “Study reveals male pattern baldness doesn’t include ears”, it’s obvious that excessive ear and nose hair has been on a lot of people’s chests.

And by that I mean in terms of subject matter, not actual hairs falling from men’s ears and noses during the course of conversation, eating or… whatever.

It seems I have become the “go-to” guy when it comes to ear and nose hair confessions. The subject is generally brought up by wives, such as while standing in line at A&W and ordering a chili cheese dog for their husbands. One minute they’re talking about the origin of the Coney dog, the next I’m being told what it’s like trying to carry on a conversation with a spouse who doesn’t seem to notice he has hardened Cheez Whiz in his nostril hair. Continue reading

The people have spoken! The world is full of fruitcakes

The world of fruitcake lovers is a dangerous one for those without a spare.

The world of fruitcake lovers is a dangerous one for those without a spare.

Every once in a while a column strikes a nerve with readers. These readers then write me to express their displeasure; they are angry, hurt, offended, or breaking in new stationery. Whatever the reason, I appreciate this feedback regardless of the fact that, in many cases, the column they’re talking about wasn’t mine. So you can imagine my shock at getting unhappy letters from people who (a) read my column and (b) actually like fruitcake.

The letters came in response to the column I wrote about Fruitcake Disposal Anxiety Disorder, which was named in a New York Post special investigation as “The fastest-growing mental disorder in the entire world.”

“And we’re pretty sure about that,” the report concluded. “If not, then it’s right up there with ‘Fear of Clowns’ or something.”

After receiving these letters, I looked back over the column and realized that, yes — it was a little insensitive to fruitcake lovers out there. So, in response, I spent time looking into what makes a good fruitcake, compared with the kind of fruitcake the rest of us receive each holiday season. After comparing dozens of recipes and then baking four different fruitcakes of my own, I realized something important — which is that, by using a six-inch bundt pan, my daughter now has a full set of tires for her Barbie Jeep. Continue reading

Avoiding the destruction of Earth could come down to a good paint job

Haven’t we seen this movie?

Scientists and Mayans tell us it’s only a matter of time before the Earth is destroyed. Possibly as soon as Dec. 21. Probably by a giant asteroid — whichever comes first. This of course would lead to a cataclysmic event unleashing tidal waves, earthquakes, 6,000 years of winter, and, theoretically, mankind’s final offering as an evolved species:

Survivor: Oh great—now what?

Scientists warn that the only way to avoid total extinction would be to somehow divert the offending asteroid into a different orbit, therefore altering its path into a collision course with something less vital, like, say… New Jersey. Continue reading

When planning your ‘Black Friday’ shopping, don’t forget Bigfoot

There are many advantages to shopping with Bigfoot. Keeping a low profile is not one of them.

There are times when, as a columnist, I am faced with the difficult decision of choosing between two equally important topics in order to meet my deadline.

Then there are times like this when, thanks to years of experience and accidentally consuming a quadruple espresso meant for the person next to me at Starbuck’s, I realize both topics can be combined into a single, well-structured piece of journalism.

Which is why, today, we will be talking about how to prepare for holiday shopping with the help of Bigfoot.

As some of you may have heard, a hiker in Utah recently posted video of what appears to be Bigfoot rummaging through the brush.

In addition, some of you may have heard about Thanksgiving.

I don’t believe this is a coincidence. Continue reading

Cold medicine: The key to true introspection

As if being sick wasn’t bad enough, my laptop burst into flames while I was on the commode. Ask Tina Fey — she saw the whole thing.

I’d like to start by apologizing for this column.

Technically speaking, I’m still writing it. However, given the volume of cold medication I have consumed, and keeping in mind that I have finally given in and, as a time saving measure, moved my workstation to the commode, there’s a good chance my current location is exactly where this column is headed. Making matters worse, the laptop I’m using is about 10 years old. Getting it open was like shucking a Pismo clam. After opening it, I realized it’s the very same model that caused panic aboard a flight to Miami when it overheated and singed the thighs of an intoxicated businessman.

True, I am not on a plane. Yet there are still some frightening similarities:

I am under the influence of Codeine.

I am in a seated position.

And if this morning was any indication, I won’t be leaving my seat for the next few hours. Continue reading