Thirteen years ago this week a thin packet containing four agricultural columns hit the cluttered desks of 124 newspaper editors and publishers in 14 Midwestern states.
Three of those very smart, very wise gatekeepers thought the journalism good enough to publish. Immediately thereafter – well, within two weeks, anyway – reader letters began to hit my desk.
Some contained love; others pure hemlock. No one, many of the letters related, had ever been so stupid and conceited to write an ag column that failed to praise farmers in every other sentence.
Much has changed in American agriculture over those 670 or so columns and nearly 465,000 words.
Some things never change. One thing that hasn’t, however, are the howls that scream into this office, now mostly by e-mail. Most weeks it’s a manageable flood; other weeks it’s a bloody tidal wave.
In general, the column’s 680 weekly words generates anywhere from 10 to 50 times that number in angry reply. When done right, I rarely hear the bullet.
Like this comment pulled from a lengthy, mid-March letter to a Minnesota newspaper editor that the writer kindly carbon-copied to me:
“Mr. Guebert bases his entire article on a ‘friend’s’ comparison of ‘what-if’ numbers