Giving the readers a chance to raise their voices

March 06, 2005|by MARK KELLER

About a month ago, I offered readers the opportunity to become guest columnists for The Herald-Mail sports department.

As sportswriters, we know that our readers hang on every word we say and take our opinions as gospel. We are the only reason that 90 percent of our readers pick up our newspaper.

Now that my brief moment of delusion has passed - it's actually closer to 60 percent - I'll explain the real reason we've decided to open such a forum.

When the members of our sports department began writing columns on a regular basis just over three years ago, we wanted to give our section a voice. We wanted to take a step back from doing simple coverage of games and get out the opinions of those of us who see those games.


As we project our voice, our readers sometimes project back to us. And it's not always good feedback that we get.

My opinion on the state of the Baltimore Orioles doesn't always match the opinions of our readers. In fact, I get more response to the columns I write about the Orioles than on any other subject.

Giving readers an opportunity to write an occasional column will provide a voice for the rest of our readership, too. Whether their opinions match mine or anyone else's in the sports department makes no difference. In fact, I hope the guest columnists will take a different stance than those of our staff.

The first of our guest columns, which will be titled "A Voice From The Crowd," is published today on page D7. They will appear every week, written by different readers.

Our first group of guest columnists includes:

· Dr. Chip Zimmer - Zimmer is a Hagerstown resident who has degrees from both West Virginia University and the University of Maryland. At one time, he was the acting Athletic Director at George Washington University. He is active in the community in youth sports and founded the Tri-State Fellowship of Christian Athletes Volleyball Club.

· Dave Woods - Woods now lives near Hedgesville, W.Va., but has lived all over due to stints as a professor, Naval officer, federal executive and periodic writer. He has rooted for a wide array of teams including the Oakland Acorns of the Pacific Coast League and the old Baltirmore Bullets.

· Don Tapley - Tapley is a Hagerstown resident who graduated from Williamsport High School and Shepherd University and was a member of the Rams football team from 1984-86. Tapley's opinions will match mine on at least one count: He is an admitted Miami Dolphins fan (though that's not easy to own up to these days).

· John Hess - Hess is a resident of Martinsburg, W.Va. who is planning his second retirement from the Internal Revenue Service next month. He played in the first game at Halfway Little League in 1956 before working his way through other youth leagues in Washington County. Like many others in this area, Hess was a Baltimore Colts fan "until they skulked out of town in 1984."

I hope you enjoy the opinions these four guest writers will express over the next few months. I also hope you'll let us know what you think of their opinions. Send your comments to and we will pass them along to the writers.

And if you would like to take a shot at becoming a guest columnist, drop me an e-mail at the address listed below. We will rotate the columnists every three to four months.

Mark Keller is sports editor of The Herald-Mail. His column appears every Sunday. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2332, or by e-mail at

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