Of golden moments and great challenges to come: a fond farewell

August 02, 1998|By Sara Engram

WHEN I WAS first offered the opportunity to write editorials and opinion columns at the old News American, I asked a wise friend whether I should leave reporting. Do it, he advised, the opinion pages offer "a broader canvas to paint on."

He was right. Since 1981, at the News American, the Evening Sun, and The Sun, the editorial and op-ed pages have given me a chance to have my own soapbox and, as my friend also predicted, a chance to "grow up in print."

Yes, that blank space waiting to be filled with my very own opinions has, at times, also been a chance to say something downright stupid. The challenge on those occasions is to swallow that pride and try again.

It's a wonderful life, offering opinions -- so much fun at times that a paycheck at the end of the week can almost seem superfluous.

When I arrived at the Evening Sun, one of my colleagues had posted a quote from a comrade, Buck Royall, a former editor at a Richmond, Va., newspaper:

"I have spent my life absorbed in the greatest classics of English literature. I have put whole scenes of Shakespeare to memory. I delight in the works of the famous poets. I have found great rewards in reading Cicero and Virgil in Latin and the plays of Sophocles in the original Greek.

"But I know of no greater literary pleasure in life than to go to bed with a pint of Tennessee whiskey and read my own editorials."

Ray Jenkins, my boss at the Evening Sun, liked to recall the time he was lunching with a judge. After eating, the judge remarked that he needed to get back to his chambers because he had an opinion to write. Ray answered, "So do I, but nobody has to pay any attention to mine."

Despite the joys and reward of opinion writing, there comes a time when a new challenge gets the juices flowing more than another issue to opine on. As of this month, I am seeking out those challenges in the newsroom.

I'm sure issues will arise that I cannot resist commenting on. On those occasions, this column may well appear again, but not on a regular basis.

In the meantime, to all of you who have taken time to read these columns, I thank you. And to those who have gone further -- to agree, quibble or criticize -- I offer a special thanks. Year after year, you made my day.

Sara Engram is a deputy editorial page editor of The Sun.

Pub Date: 8/02/98

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