An excerpt from my Poynter column on Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski, named the top columnist in APSE contest in papers with circulation of 175,000 and over.
Sielski’s victory speaks to the importance of access. He seeks to take readers to places they never get to see. Sielski tries to base his perspective by observing his subject, such as a column on Pete Rose speaking at a Philadelphia church.
Sielski wrote of Rose:
This initially would seem an ill-suited venue for Pete Rose: among evangelicals. But to sit in on the services was to see how fitting the setting actually was. He and Jones sat across from each other on stage in an auditorium, and more than 2,000 people whooped and cheered and chuckled at his stories and one-liners. A teenage boy who distributed bread and wine at communion wore a red Phillies jersey. A man in his early 50s – bald and goateed and built like a small mountain – yelled, “Love you, man!”
“I’m a big believer that the greatest advantage we have is our access,” Sielski said. “We have to use it. Only so many of us have access to these people. In your columns, you have to ground what you do in your reporting, the freshness of your take. You need to give people something they won’t find in a boxscore, Twitter or ESPN.”
Sielski knows his approach runs a bit counter to a new generation of columnists and bloggers who rip and critique in all directions, often from the comforts of home. That style isn’t for him.
“It would be easy to succumb to the temptation of, ‘Let me give this opinion and I’ll get some eyeballs,’” Sielski said. “You have to pick your spots. You can’t write the Eagles should fire Chip Kelly in week 1. The advantage to this approach is that when you do take a stand, it has more impact. People go, ‘He doesn’t usually write like that.’ It has more meaning.”
Also, Sielski discusses a Father’s Day column he did on his son, Evan. Here is the link to the column. Exceptional.