Column about critics calling out columns

This is a column about columns — specifically ones that have been appearing in the Bainbridge Island Review the past two years.

Can you believe it? I’ve been editor for two years. It’s been during COVID-19’s pandemic, and sometimes it seems to have gone by so fast, but other times so slow.

But I digress. In my two years here I’ve received more complaints about our columns on the editorial page than all other issues combined.

To start off, I like our columns, except for Danny Tyree, whom I don’t think is funny. But I often run him because no one has ever complained about him, except me.

When I first got the job, people used to complain because I ran too many columns with a conservative viewpoint. I put Christine Flowers, Michael Reagan and Joe Guzzardi in that category.

Because I’m an old-school journalist, I actually think it’s healthy for the mind to read information from a variety of viewpoints. If you only want to read information you already agree with there really isn’t much of a need to read, I like to say.

But because I like to make my customers happy I have cut back running columns from those three authors – not running Guzzardi and Reagan at all and Flowers only when she takes more-moderate stances.

More recently I have been running more columns from liberal viewpoints. In that category, I put John L. Micek, Elwood Watson, Tom Purcell, Carl Golden and Dick Polman. I also don’t seem to get many complaints when I run columns from moderate authors like Peter Funt, Rich Manieri and Jase Graves.

But now that’s not good enough either.

Now readers are complaining that in a local paper we are running any national columns at all.

I can assure you that this newspaper has been running these columns long before I came on board. Looking back, all I can figure out is that not as many ran because it used to be a tabloid paper. Often there was only one a week.

With the broadsheet paper we now have, and with a smaller staff, sometimes I’ll have to run as many as five of these columnists in one week.

I tend to think more information is better than less, but some critics are saying they’d rather have smaller papers than have to read these columns. I tend to think people would rather have more for their money than less. And I also wonder why these people don’t just turn the page if they don’t want to read it.

Some people wonder why we don’t have more locals on the editorial page. We usually do. Since I’ve been here I’ve said to many of my colleagues that I’ve never seen a community write so many Letters to the Editor. We often get half a page or more. But lately, those are down, and that’s another reason for more columns.

I’m not sure why. We are still writing stories on controversial topics. The Bainbridge Island City Council does not shy away from them at all, which I totally respect.

People also wonder why I don’t write more columns or editorials. Well, obviously I’m writing this one, but stories and photos about people and news in our community are my top priority. Sound Publishing purchases the Cagle news service for editorial columns.

Others would like us to run local columns. We do in the form of Op-Eds. Those are columns from people with expertise in certain areas that run occasionally. What critics want, I think, are local columnists who write regularly. But I have to tell you that in doing this for almost 40 years now local columnists, especially those who are not paid, take up a lot more of my time. And that would lessen the time I spend on other priorities.

So, I’d love to hear what you have to say about the columns we run. We always hear a lot from critics but not much from supporters. Right now I’m leaning toward having tighter papers with fewer columns. But I’d love to be persuaded to continue what we’re doing.

Email me at

Steve Powell is editor of the Bainbridge Island Review, North Kitsap Herald and Kingston Community News.