People always ask me what it’s like being a columnist for THE HOYA. They generally phrase the question, “do you think anybody actually reads that stuff?” I respond only with my tears.

But, I know that some people do read my column. They like to tell me so in long, angry e-mails. Sometimes I respond to the detractors. Sometimes I laugh at them and show their letter to my friends. Once again, I usually cry.

But today, I’d like to respond to my “fans.” These are real excerpts of fan mail that I have received since I started writing Days on the Hilltop in August. The letters are quoted verbatim. The names of my detractors, in most cases, are omitted.

Here’s an example:

Joshua, I hated your inaccurate column.

That pretty much sums up all the reader response I get. This is just an atypically concise version of the general sentiment. A longer version reads:

I think I understand aspects of what you were attempting to convey in your Viewpoint column. I believe that I was most frustrated (and don’t take this to be insulting) your journalistic style and lack of focus on such key points w/i that viewpoint. It was a very scattered piece, and that is what I hoped to critique most.

Just tell me that you hate my inaccurate column. It is much faster. And you are less likely to mess up the grammar.

This fan continued:

However, I felt that which such random points mentioned in your column, you ‘put yourself out there’ to be attacked.

I write in a public forum and criticism is part of the game. The point of my column is to provoke discussion, not get myself attacked, but whatever. Which such random points, huh?

Sometimes, I like to take my column in a bit of a different direction. In one of my early columns I wrote a brooding piece about the Chili’s in O’Hare airport, where I have spent too many Thanksgivings. One thoughtful reader remarked:

Cheer up dude. What are you, the token moody ironic dave eggers type columnist? . Vary it up a little so you don’t have to write depressing HOYA articles.

That’s right, I am the token moody ironic Dave Eggers type columnist. My estimate is that about 50 percent of Georgetown has never even heard of Dave Eggers because they are too busy reading People magazine.

My column is a staggering work of heartbreaking genius. But some people think I am a whiny codger. Witness:

Wow, you should really take a day off and relax – go for a massage at yates or whale on the punching bag which i hear should be installed soon – cause your last couple columns have sounded like you have a lot of tension you need to get rid of.

Thanks, but my therapist already gave me this advice. Why do you have nothing better to do than psychoanalyze HOYA columnists? This astute fan, however, was correct about the punching bag tip. Shortly after, Yates installed punching bags.

I am often called to task for being a lazy journalist. I take exception to this. I am a pretty bad writer, but I am not a lazy journalist. I once needed to know how many students were members of the College Republicans so I asked their Chairman. He told me 950, so I printed it. The next day I get an e-mail:

. as Chief of Staff of the College Republicans I can firmly attest that there are a few less than 700 members who receive our emails, not 950, as claimed in your article. Please be sure to verify the source of your statistics before publishing.

I need to verify the Chairman as a source? Only the College Republicans would be unable to identify the size of their organization within 250 people. This explains a lot. The only way anyone could support Bush’s fiscal policy, after all, would be severe mathematical deficiency.

One time I wrote a column that mentioned the sometimes hostile atmosphere between a pro-Palestine organization and a pro-Israel organization. This was a mistake. I should have learned that there is only one acceptable position when talking about this conflict – change the subject immediately.

I got a personal record of 15 responses to this column. Most of the respondents agreed with me, but others adroitly observed that I was “racist,”anti-Semitic,”anti-Arab,” and that my column was “ignorant hate-speech.” Sounds like this is a touchy subject and that you disagree with my opinions.

Of course, most of these problems would have been avoided if I were not such a lousy writer. Let’s face it – I ran out of good ideas for columns some time back in September. Why else would I be insulting my fans instead of pontificating?

Most of you already know the answer: because I am a bad person.

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