THE BLOG
04/17/2009 03:39 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

'Columnists Day': An Antidote for April Angst

"April is the cruelest month" for holidays. You have the silly "April Fools' Day" and the excruciating "File Your Taxes By April 15 Unless You're Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner Day." But I'm here to tell you about a GREAT April holiday: National Columnists Day (NCD).

I'm not joking about the existence of NCD. (International Joking Day isn't until the 32nd of April.) NCD is a real holiday celebrated each year on April 18 -- the date, in 1945, that legendary newspaper columnist Ernie Pyle was killed while covering World War II.

NCD began in 1995, exactly 50 years after Pyle's death (I double-checked that math on an acoustic abacus once strummed by Eric Clapton). The holiday was the brainchild of two National Society of Newspaper Columnists members: former NSNC President Bill Tammeus, who was a staff columnist at the Kansas City Star; and Dave Lieber, a staff columnist at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Two great writers with one great idea before the newspaper biz became a zero-sum game.

Full disclosure: I'm a member of the NSNC, whose Web site is at Columnists.com. Not Columnists.calm, because columnists are among the many newspaper people losing their jobs and are thus not calm.

Anyhoo, NCD not only honors Pyle of Indiana, but columnists everywhere. Some of these scribes write about NCD each April 18 in an effort to convey the importance of their craft.

Why are columnists important? Their writing has the "voice" many straight news stories lack, and local columnists cover their communities in ways that can build intense reader loyalty. In fact, readers often feel closer to local columnists than they do to other kinds of journalists. This is helpful at a time when some media people have the same popularity as AIG lowlifes who live the high lifes. (That extra "s" at the end of "high lifes" was an AIG-demanded bonus letter.) Columnists can be "the face" of newspapers in the age of Facebook.

So "friend" a columnist on April 18!

P.S. Albert Einstein died on April 18, 1955 -- exactly 10 years after the courageous Ernie Pyle was shot. As you may know, Einstein lobbied to co-host the Oscars by coming up with the iconic "E equals MC squared" formula that means "entertainment equals two masters of ceremonies."

What's this have to do with Ernie Pyle? Well, Pyle was played by Burgess Meredith in the 1945 movie The Story of G.I. Joe, which was nominated for four Academy Awards. Einstein was too upset to co-host the 1946 Oscars ceremony because he couldn't understand an inscrutable column by the 1941-born George Will. But the writing of most other newspaper columnists is quite accessible!