Like I said, I never wanted to be a columnist, but no one did when I started back in 2000. Sure, there were columnists around then, some of whom still write for the Guardian (Jonathan Freedland, Martin Kettle, Polly Toynbee), some of whom sadly don’t (Martin Wollacott, Hugo Young). But column-writing was seen as something of a private members’ club: elitist, dusty and distant. Back then, young journalists wanted the fun, scrappy jobs: investigative reporter, music reviewer, features writer. But ever since the rise of blogging culture in the 2000s, when anyone with an Apple PowerBook (RIP) could knock out a column, pretty much every aspiring journalist I’ve met has told me they want to be a columnist. Stating your opinion online has become the definitive way of saying who you are, so of course more people want columns. Yet, here’s a funny thing: I can’t recall a single day – and there were thousands – that I spent sitting at my desk writing a column. I can, however, recall going to the Oscars to cover them, or the weekend I spent with Judy Blume to interview her. Columns pump up the ego, but going out and finding stories is a lot more fun.
That is from Hadley Freeman at The Guardian, who it seems is quitting…as a columnist but not as a writer. I also would stress the role of social media in this. Everyone can have an opinion about a column, so this makes the Opinion section far more central to a newspaper, and not necessarily for the better.