Sunday, February 10, 2002

Goodbye, hello

A moving experience: Changes to Enquirer editorial pages

        When I arrived in Cincinnati nearly 10 years ago, with a full tank of attitude and a stick-figure picture of the city, a woman in the newsroom asked me what changes I would make in the Enquirer editorial pages.

        “For starters,” I said, “some of the syndicated columnists in our stable are ready for the glue factory, and then — ”

        “They won't let you do that,” she said, shaking her head sadly, like a doctor delivering a tragic diagnosis.

        I took it as a personal challenge. For nearly 10 years, I've tested the boundaries of the invisible fences in Cincinnati, with only occasional “mild corrections” that were no worse than holding onto live jumper cables hooked up to a moving cement truck.

        It's been a heckuva ride.

        I found out it's amazing what “they” will let you get away with in Cincinnati if you don't mind flying sparks and occasional shock treatments.

        I have been blessed with a team of creative, talented professionals, an open-minded editor and a publisher who encouraged us to crank the voltage dial into the red zone.

        Results were immediately apparent.

        In my first week on the job, I was summoned to the Enquirer's Diversity Committee court to explain our felony opinions and misdemeanor political incorrectness.

        Several civic-minded readers offered to take up a collection to put me on the next bus back to Arizona.

        And that was before some Clintonistas decided I was like Ken Starr, but without all his charm.

        I was testing the hypothesis that people do not stop reading editorial pages because they are too danged exciting. And the experiment worked. Mostly. I wrote some boneheaded opinions that should have been recalled like Firestone tires. But letters to the editor — the heartbeat of an opinion page — steadily increased from anemic dozens to healthy hundreds.

        And we had fun.

        I hope the opinion pages are spicier. I hope we encouraged positive changes in a city I love.

        But I have to be honest: In the long, distinguished history of the Cincinnati Enquirer, I was only making footprints in the sand at low tide.

        And after hundreds of endorsement interviews, thousands of editorials and what feels like eleventy billion brain-numbing meetings, I'm ready for a new beach.

        Starting today, I am no longer associate editor of the opinion pages, the Sunday Forum, letters, cartoons, syndicated columns, editorials, crank calls, pickets and threats.

        I am now a fool-time columnist. On Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I will write personal columns in this space. It's my dream job — a chance to annoy people three times as often.

        It's a chance to get off the bus that is loaded with the editorial board and all the luggage of Enquirer opinions, and climb on a Harley — more maneuverable, faster and more fun, but a bit more risky because there's nobody else to blame when I wipe out in a ditch. And I will.

        It's a chance to let my curiosity off its leash and see what it digs up and brings back to the porch.

        For the record: There is no sinister conspiracy to turn the news section to the right or yank the editorial wheel to the left. Anyone who has read my columns knows I am contrarian and conservative, but my opinions won't influence news coverage any more than a salmon swimming upstream influences a river.

        If the idea of Peter Bronson three times a week gives you hives, I recommend aspirin and a dose of Maureen Dowditol. But if you like my Sunday Forum columns, I hope you will come along to the Metro section. It will be a heckuva ride.

        I can't wait to find out what “they” won't let me do here.

        Contact Peter Bronson at Cincinnati.Com keyword: Bronson.


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