There comes a time when things must change. Not for the mere sake of change but because it has come time to do it. Such is the case for the name of my column – “That New Guy”.
I’ve been editor here for 15 months now, and it appears I’m a keeper. However, my column name, while very appropriate for my first year here, has become a bit outdated. Sure, in comparison to you natives and life-long residents, I am still a bit of a new guy here, but in the name of accuracy in journalism, I am no longer a new guy to Tullahoma. Therefore, the name needs to change – but to what?
I’ve always told my oldest son that you never leave your present job until you have a new job. It’s just not something you should do lest you go broke, since there’s no guarantee of another job. The same is true with a good column name. I can’t throw “That New Guy” out the door until I have a new name.
Granted, at one of the past papers I worked for, the name of my column was changed for me without my consent or knowledge. And, worst of all, I didn’t notice for months! Perhaps I should explain.
For 24 years I wrote a column at the paper to our east (more east then Manchester) called “Taking a Stand.” It was a hot, steamy dumpster fire of political drivel that was practically unreadable. It was mean spirited, judgmental, slanted, hypocritical and just plain crappy writing that I wouldn’t allow to be printed within the pages of the Tullahoma News under the guise of a personal column. I say that in hindsight since, back when I was writing it, I thought it was the best thing ever. I was Duane “Flipping” Sherrill and you couldn’t tell me anything. All it took was for a couple of people to pat me on the back and tell me to “preach on” and “keep it up” for me to continue churning out what I termed as the unarguable facts about how things should be. Beware people who are full of themselves.
So, as I’ve explained in an earlier column which I’m sure has long since lined the bottom of your birdcage (yes, newspaper has many uses along with being informational and entertaining), my Saul on the road to Damascus moment happened quite by accident. Instead of being struck blind by the Almighty, I was simply allowed to view my work for what it was – crap.
I discovered it quite by accident. I was preparing to enter columns in the Tennessee Press Association contest and began reviewing my columns for the entire year of 2008. I went from January to December in the archives and didn’t find anything even remotely interesting. In fact, they seemed to be the same thing every week. Then it occurred to me – I wasn’t a very good political columnist, because I didn’t really know what I was talking about. It was then and there, while sitting in the archive room, that I decided to turn the page – literally. No more serious stuff except for rare occasions. Frankly, I’m a funny guy, so being all serious was going against the grain of personality. What I needed to do was be funny, and that’s when the humor columns started rolling out and the awards started rolling in.
Beginning from then, I wasn’t “taking a stand” about anything. Actually, I zoned in on my family, since my two sons were the source of many laughs. I’d throw in my mother once in a while, but I’d catch an earful the next day when she scolded me for calling her out publically for silly things she’d do.
“Oh, that’s going to be a column,” I’d say after she’d do something funny.
“It better not be,” she scowl. “I’ll come down to the office and whip you right there in front of everybody.”
Generally I’d just pick on my kids. Henry couldn’t read then and Jack didn’t like to read so they were safe sources. My persistence on making light of family matters prompted my editor to make a change in 2013 – a change he didn’t discuss with me. He changed the name of my column to “The Family Man” and continued running them in Wednesday’s edition like they had always run. It wasn’t until some three months later, when I was leafing through the paper that I discovered it.
“What’s up with the name of my column?” I asked the editor.
He snickered. “You mean you’re just now noticing? I changed that three months ago. You aren’t taking a stand any more – you’re a family man.”
So, I stuck with the name until I left the publication. Now, this is where I have a confession to make to you Tullahoma readers. When I went to my next job, I took the column name “That New Guy” but continued my humor writing. I did this because Jack had become a teen, and they aren’t that funny since they tend to know everything.
Unlike here, I wasn’t at my prior job for long enough to look to change “That New Guy” name. I worked my last day there on Friday morning and did my first assignment here that Friday night. And, I brought the column name straight over.
So, back to where I began before this massive rabbit hole. I need a new name for my column. There’s no hurry, but I’d hate to be here five years and still be going by “That New Guy”. That’s where you come in. I want your recommendations – but only those that I can consider for print. We can even call this a contest. The person who submits the name I use will win one of my books. Yeah, I almost forgot. I’m also a novelist, having published six books. It’s hard to sell them when my readers are afraid I’ll give them COVID at a signing.
Anyway, all good things must come to an end. Don’t worry, my award-winning column will keep you laughing but under a different name once a suitable one is determined.