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Would a new name change things?

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I never really thought about my 'fan base' before, but now that I have, I'm getting worried.

So worried, in fact, that I'm thinking about changing the name of this thing you're reading. So far, I'm leaning toward 'News for People Who Were Dropped on their Heads When They Were Babies.'

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's back up a ways.

When I started writing this, back in 1977, it was called 'Lower Left-hand Corner.' The reason for that was simple: Because editorials tended to run down the left side of the Woodburn Independent's Opinion page, and what I really wanted to do was make a place for humorous editorials, that's the best name I could think of.

Some newspaper readers, I soon discovered, can tell when something is meant to be funny, and some can't. This was true at the Independent, at the Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings, and it was true at the Klamath Falls Herald and News, where the name was changed to 'Just Another Point of View.'

Ray Thorne, administrator of the state Employment Division, wrote in 1981 to tell me, 'You have abused the power of the press by showing a total lack of responsibility for factual and current information.'

In 1983, Ma Prem Isabel wrote from Rancho Rajneesh in Antelope to inform me that I was not qualified to be the next Bhagwan, even though I had outlined in great detail why I thought I was.

Ten years later, Steve Wagner of Fort Wainwright, Alaska, wrote, 'Stick to the local issues; you're obviously ill-equipped to handle anything outside Washington County. Cancel my subscription; I'm just too stupid to appreciate your distorted perception of the military culture and contribution.'

'I had to quit reading Mikel Kelly's column, as I found them either nonsensical or uninteresting,' wrote Ruth Marie Dobratz in 1993. 'I did want to read what he had written about Packwood, but after reading his column, I want you to know that I don't think this should be printed anywhere.'

'After reading your item, 'We need more news for lunatics,' I decided that I could get along without reading your paper,' wrote Richard Bloomberg of Tigard, also in 1993.

My point is, I've always had a shaky fan base.

'The meaning of Christmas has obviously completely escaped you,' wrote Rowland Rose in the late '80s. 'Your content is irrelevant. It doesn't inspire, uplift or inform.'

Ouch.

'Have you ever considered giving up your column and putting Ali Oop (sic) in its place so we wouldn't have to wonder what happened over the weekend?' asked 'Jo.'

Jo's question, by the way, was on the back of a postcard showing the Millbrae Travelodge and was postmarked in Alturas, Calif.

A mysterious critic going by the initials 'MLM' wrote to my boss in Klamath Falls with this critical note: 'I don't generally write about articles you publish in our only local paper, but the enclosed article by Kelly is about the most useless form of writing that we have ever seen, in even the smallest newspapers. This is something that a fourth-grade student would write.'

Well, now that we put all of these things on the newspaper's Web site, and anybody can comment on anything anonymously, I get even more feedback from readers. Here's one about me pretending to be a millionaire, after being notified I'd won the Swiss Lotto.

'You are such a deusch bag (sic). Just by writing that article your 'millionaire' status has changed you. If you were 'so cool' it wouldn't have mattered. Your (sic again) a worm.'

And you, sir (no woman would call me a 'deusch' bag), were obviously dropped on your head when you were young.

True confession time: I didn't really win a million dollars. I didn't really want to be a Bhagwan. I didn't really think Idi Amin had moved into a house in Woodburn's Senior Estates. I also didn't really invent penicillin, teach Michael Jackson to dance, kill a Florida alligator with my bare hands or win any Pulitzers, Nobel Peace Prizes or Oscars. And I most definitely did not ever put a live salmon down my pants at a party and ask people to dance.

Yes, I've said all those things, but I was fibbing.

What do you expect from a worm?

Former editor of the Lake Oswego Review and former managing editor of the Beaverton Valley Times and The Times, serving Tigard, Tualatin and Sherwood, Mikel Kelly handles special sections for Community Newspapers and contributes a regular column.