Keith Preston was a professor and a poet who, in his 30s in the Roaring Twenties, turned from academia to journalism as a columnist on the Chicago Daily News.
He contributed a daily column, plus a totally separate, extra, one every Wednesday. He also edited the paper’s books pages.
When he died in 1927 at the age of 42, he was described by the literary editor of the New York World, as “probably the most brilliant of the long succession of witty columnists that Chicago has produced in the last thirty years....He was a scholar turned newspaper man, and his excessive good nature made his shafts easy to take.”
He was, therefore, ideally qualified to describe the art or craft of The Columnist.
The Column In History
Great Emperors in days of old
On columns did their deeds unfold
To fill his column Trajan hurled
Red Ruin round the Roman World
Still columns mighty deeds record
But peace has triumphed o'er the sword.
I read a book or feed my cat;
My column tells the world of that.
The Top O' the Column
Day after day our daily muse,
Perched in this high position
Watches the fluctuating news
Edition by edition
From noon to early afternoon
Home, tenth, to final makeup
She sees the news room change its tune
In shake-up after shake-up
She watches the alleged confirmed
And the confirmed denied
Whereat what is politely termed
her mindpuffs up with pride.
Our muse seems light to sober men
Her mind no weighty matter
But when her mind's made up,why,then
You bet she's a standpatter.
[Editor's note: a standpatter is, fairly obviously if you think about it, one who stands pat, someone who is opposed to change. In poker it is a player who plays the cards with which he was originally dealt.]