For every time, there is a season.
Every writer, no matter what his station, needs an editor. But few newspaper columnists ever needed one less than the Rev. Malcolm Nygren, whose Sunday column has been appearing in The News-Gazette for nearly 60 years.
His columns always came in on time, and it was rare when they needed even a modest change. That point is worth noting because the Nygren column published elsewhere on this page is his last. Know that this is his decision, not ours.
Now 85, the Rev. Nygren started writing his Sunday columns in 1953, taking the place of his boss at the First Presbyterian Church in Champaign. Nygren recalled that News-Gazette editors recruited a stable of local ministers to fill the vacancy, but they all quit after writing a single column each. It's unclear if these failed pundits couldn't take the deadlines or were out of sorts because newspapers editors were a parsimonious bunch who expected the ministers to write for free.
Nygren said that "by default" he got the column on a full-time basis and, eventually, a fee for writing it. A full-time minister, Nygren said his goal has been to write for a general audience and "to demonstrate a Christian view of various aspects of life without identifying it as Christian." He said he was pleased that his column ran on the Sunday editorial page because "the wrong people would have been reading it" if it ran on the religion page.
Like all writers, the Rev. Nygren said he enjoyed the feedback he received from readers. "I was proud of some of those columns," he said. "I heard from all kinds of people. ... I still do."
And, yes, Nygren said, he will miss preparing and submitting his weekly offerings. "It's been fun. But it's not as easy as it was," he said.
Nygren's legions of readers will miss him, as will his editors at the paper. His columns, written in simple, clear language, were a font of common sense, fundamental decency and astute observations on the good, the bad and the ugly that make up our daily lives.