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HERB CAEN newspaper columnist, 1994.jpg
Herb Caen, San Francisco humorist and journalist. One of the most renowned columnists in United States.
Names Reporter, Writer, Journalist
Synonyms Journalist, Writer
  • /ˈkäləmnəst/
Occupation type
Activity sectors
Mass Media, Entertainment, Newspaper
Competencies Communication, Responsibility
Fields of
Mass Media, Newspaper, Magazine, Broadcasting
Related jobs
Editor, Reporter, Writer

A columnist is a person who writes for publication in a series, creating an article that usually offers commentary and opinions.


Columns appear in newspapers, magazines and other publications, including blogs. They take the form of a short essay by a specific writer who offers a personal point of view. In some instances, a column has been written by a composite or a team, appearing under a pseudonym, or (in effect) a brand name. Some columnists appear on a daily or weekly basis and later reprint the same material in book collections.

Radio and television

Newspaper columnists of the 1930s and 1940s, such as Franklin Pierce Adams (also known as FPA), Nick Kenny, John Crosby, Jimmie Fidler, Louella Parsons, Drew Pearson, Ed Sullivan and Walter Winchell, achieved a celebrity status and used their syndicated columns as a springboard to move into radio and television. In some cases, such as Winchell and Parsons, their radio programs were quite similar in format to their newspaper columns. Rona Barrett began as a Hollywood gossip columnist in 1957, duplicating her print tactics on television by the mid-1960s. One of the more famous syndicated columnists of the 1920s and 1930s, O. O. McIntyre, declined offers to do a radio series because he felt it would interfere and diminish the quality of writing in his column, "New York Day by Day."


Franklin Pierce Adams and O. O. McIntyre both collected their columns into a series of books, as did other columnists. McIntyre's book, The Big Town: New York Day by Day (1935) was a bestseller. Adams' The Melancholy Lute (1936) is a collection of selections from three decades of his columns. H. Allen Smith's first humor book, Low Man on a Totem Pole (1941), and his two following books, were so popular during World War II that they kept Smith on the New York Herald Tribune's Best Seller List for 100 weeks and prompted a collection of all three in 3 Smiths in the Wind (1946). When Smith's column, The Totem Pole, was syndicated by United Features, he told Time :

Just between you and me, it's tough. A typewriter can be a pretty formidable contraption when you sit down in front of it and say: "All right, now I'm going to be funny." [1]

The writing of French humor columnist Alain Rémond has been collected in books. The Miami Herald promoted humor columnist Dave Barry with this description: "Dave Barry has been at The Miami Herald since 1983. A Pulitzer Prize winner for commentary, he writes about issues ranging from the international economy to exploding toilets." Barry has collected his columns into a series of successful books. He stopped writing his nationally syndicated weekly column in 2005, [2] and the Miami Herald now offers on its website a lengthy selection of past columns by Barry. [3]

In 1950, Editor & Publisher looked back at the newspaper columnists of the 1920s:

"Feature service of various sorts is new," Hallam Walker Davis wrote in a book, The Column, which was published in 1926. "It has had the advantage of high-powered promotion. It is still riding on the crest of the first big wave its own splash sent out." But Mr. Davis did think that in a decade or two the newspapers might be promoting their columns along with their comic strips. The World had started the ball rolling with billboard advertising of Heywood Broun's "It Seems to Me." The McNaught Syndicate was sitting pretty with O. O. McIntyre, Will Rogers and Irvin S. Cobb on its list. The New York Herald Tribune offered Don Marquis and Franklin P. Adams rhymed satirically in "The Conning Tower" for the New York World Syndicate. "A Line o' Type or Two", Bert Leston Taylor's verse column in the Chicago Tribune, was now being done by Richard Henry Little. Other offerings: humorous sketches by Damon Runyon; O. Henry stories; editorials by Arthur Brisbane; Ring Lardner letter; "Rippling Rhymes", by Walt Mason; literary articles by H. L. Mencken. [4]

Newspaper and magazine

In at least one situation, a column expanded to become an entire successful magazine. When Cyrus Curtis founded the Tribune and Farmer in 1879, it was a four-page weekly with an annual subscription rate of 50 cents. He introduced a women's column by his wife, Louise Knapp Curtis, and it proved so popular that in 1883, he decided to publish it as a separate monthly supplement, Ladies Journal and Practical Housekeeper, edited by Louise Curtis. With 25,000 subscribers by the end of its first year, it was such a success that Curtis sold Tribune and Farmer to put his energy into the new publication, which became the Ladies' Home Journal .


See also

Related Research Articles

Dave Barry American writer

David McAlister Barry is an American author and columnist who wrote a nationally syndicated humor column for the Miami Herald from 1983 to 2005. He has also written numerous books of humor and parody, as well as comic novels. Barry's honors include the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary (1988) and the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism (2005).

Walter Winchell American gossip journalist

Walter Winchell was a syndicated American newspaper gossip columnist and radio news commentator. Originally a vaudeville performer, Winchell began his newspaper career as a Broadway reporter, critic and columnist for New York tabloids. He rose to national celebrity in the 1930s with Hearst newspaper chain syndication and a popular radio program. He was known for an innovative style of gossipy staccato news briefs, jokes and Jazz Age slang. Biographer Neal Gabler credited his popularity and influence meant “He turned journalism into a form of entertainment.”

Print syndication

Print syndication distributes news articles, columns, political cartoons, comic strips and other features to newspapers, magazines and websites. The syndicates offer reprint rights and grant permissions to other parties for republishing content of which they own and/or represent copyrights. Other terms for the service include a newspaper syndicate, a press syndicate, and a feature syndicate.

Franklin P. Adams American newspaper columnist (1881-1960)

Franklin Pierce Adams was an American columnist known as Franklin P. Adams and by his initials F.P.A.. Famed for his wit, he is best known for his newspaper column, "The Conning Tower", and his appearances as a regular panelist on radio's Information Please. A prolific writer of light verse, he was a member of the Algonquin Round Table of the 1920s and 1930s.

Gene Weingarten American journalist

Gene Norman Weingarten is an American syndicated humor columnist at The Washington Post. He is a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing. Weingarten is known for both his serious and humorous work. Weingarten's column, "Below the Beltway," is published weekly in The Washington Post magazine and syndicated nationally by The Washington Post Writers Group, which also syndicates Barney & Clyde, a comic strip he co-authors with his son, Dan Weingarten, with illustrations by David Clark.

<i>New York Daily Mirror</i>

The New York Daily Mirror was an American morning tabloid newspaper first published on June 24, 1924, in New York City by the William Randolph Hearst organization as a contrast to their mainstream broadsheets, the Evening Journal and New York American, later consolidated into the New York Journal American. It was created to compete with the New York Daily News which was then a sensationalist tabloid and the most widely circulated newspaper in the United States. Hearst preferred the broadsheet format and sold the Mirror to an associate in 1928, only to buy it back in 1932.

Heywood Broun

Heywood Campbell Broun Jr. was an American journalist. He worked as a sportswriter, newspaper columnist, and editor in New York City. He founded the American Newspaper Guild, later known as The Newspaper Guild and now as The NewsGuild-CWA. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he is best remembered for his writing on social issues and his championing of the underdog. He believed that journalists could help right wrongs, especially social ills.

Tribune Content Agency

Tribune Content Agency (TCA) is a syndication company owned by Tribune Publishing. TCA had previously been known as the Chicago Tribune Syndicate, the Chicago Tribune New York News Syndicate (CTNYNS), Tribune Company Syndicate, and Tribune Media Services. TCA is headquartered in Chicago, and had offices in various American cities, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Hong Kong.

Nick Kenny (poet)

Nicholas Aloysius Kenny was a syndicated newspaper columnist, a song lyricist and a poet who wrote light verse in the Edgar Guest tradition.

O. O. McIntyre

Oscar Odd McIntyre was a New York newspaper columnist of the 1920s and 1930s, who used the byline O. O. McIntyre. The Washington Post once described his column as "the letter from New York read by millions because it never lost the human, homefolk flavor of a letter from a friend." For a quarter of a century, his daily column, “New York Day by Day,” was published in more than 500 newspapers.

A comic strip syndicate functions as an agent for cartoonists and comic strip creators, placing the cartoons and strips in as many newspapers as possible on behalf of the artist. A syndicate can annually receive thousands of submissions, from which only two or three might be selected for representation. In some cases, the work will be owned by the syndicate as opposed to the creator. The Guinness World Record for the world's most syndicated strip belongs to Jim Davis' Garfield, which at that point (2002) appeared in 2,570 newspapers, with 263 million readers worldwide.

McNaught Syndicate American newspaper syndicate between 1922 and 1989

The McNaught Syndicate was an American newspaper syndicate founded in 1922. It was established by Virgil Venice McNitt and Charles V. McAdam. Its best known contents were the columns by Will Rogers and O. O. McIntyre, the Dear Abby letters section and comic strips, including Joe Palooka and Heathcliff. It folded in September 1989.

The Bell Syndicate, launched in 1916 by editor-publisher John Neville Wheeler, was an American syndicate that distributed columns, fiction, feature articles and comic strips to newspapers for decades. It was located in New York City at 247 West 43rd Street and later at 229 West 43rd Street. It also reprinted comic strips in book form.

Larry Thompson (humorist)

Lawrence "Larry" Thompson was an American humor columnist and newspaper reporter for 28 years with The Miami Herald, until his death in 1973.

Charles Leroy "C. L." Edson, was an American newspaper columnist, humorist, and poet whose work appeared in New York papers in the first decades of the 20th century. He wrote a guide to writing newspaper humor, The Gentle Art of Columning: A Treatise on Comic Journalism (1920), and an autobiography, The Great American Ass (1926). Edson also wrote for several national publications.

The Field Newspaper Syndicate was a syndication service based in Chicago that operated independently from 1941 to 1984, for a good time under the name the Chicago Sun-Times Syndicate. The service was founded by Marshall Field III and was part of Field Enterprises. The syndicate was most well known for Steve Canyon, but also launched such popular, long-running strips as The Berrys, From 9 To 5, Rivets, and Rick O'Shay. Other features included the editorial cartoons of Bill Mauldin and Jacob Burck, and the "Ask Ann Landers" advice column.

Publishers Newspaper Syndicate was a syndication service based in Chicago that operated from 1925 to 1967, when it merged with the Hall Syndicate. Publishers syndicated such long-lived comic strips as Big Chief Wahoo / Steve Roper, Mary Worth, Kerry Drake, Rex Morgan, M.D., Judge Parker, and Apartment 3-G.

The New York Herald Tribune Syndicate was the syndication service of the New York Herald Tribune. Syndicating comic strips and newspaper columns, it operated from c. 1914 to 1966. The syndicate's most notable strips were Mr. and Mrs., Our Bill, Penny, Miss Peach, and B.C. Syndicated columns included Walter Lippmann's Today and Tomorrow, Weare Holbrook's Soundings, George Fielding Eliot's military affairs column, and John Crosby's radio and television column. Irita Bradford Van Doren was book review editor for a time.


  1. "Totem Column" . Time . November 10, 1941. Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  2. Curtis, Bryan (January 12, 2005). "Dave Barry: Elegy for the Humorist". Slate . Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  3. "Dave Barry Living Columns & Blogs". Miami Herald . Retrieved September 7, 2017.
  4. McMaster, Jane (July 29, 1950). "News of Yore 1950: News of Yore 1924: A Glance Back to 1924 in First E&P Directory". Editor & Publisher . Retrieved September 7, 2017 via Stripper's Guide.