December 2010 Issue
Editor's Note: Laureate of Everyday Lives
One of his most touching columns was called “A Slow News Day.” Everything legendary columnist Mike Harden wrote was touching, of course, but I remember that column in particular because it inspired a front-page series of stories in The Journal
(now The Morning Journal
) in Lorain, where I was associate editor for a few years.
I read the piece in First Gathering
, published in 1982, the first of what would be five collections of Mike’s columns. He was columnist for The Columbus Citizen-Journal
from 1981 to 1983, and at The Columbus Dispatch
from 1983 until his death in October.
He also was a cherished favorite of Ohio Magazine
readers, having contributed to the magazine since its inception in 1978. He was our associate editor in 1978–79, and continued writing for us off and on over the years.
Four years ago this month, he wrote our “My Ohio” column and, in his characteristic way, captured the spirit of the season as no other writer could — with warmth and humor and beautiful truth. He told of playing a wise man in his Sunday School nativity pageant as a child, and of his unrequited — not to mention unexpressed — love for Blanche, the golden-haired little girl who played Mary.
I can’t do justice to his writing in this short space, so I won’t try. Nor will I try to describe the power of “A Slow News Day,” which celebrated the everyday headlines of everyday lives — birth, graduation, marriage and such. At The Journal, we were so captivated by the column that we launched a series of front-page stories about the everyday miracles in the lives of our readers, and it became one of the newspaper’s most popular continuing features.
And why not? We are far more interested in our neighbors, after all, than we are about the self-important characters who populate the pages devoted to what passes for “real” news. Mike Harden understood that, which explains why he was so beloved by his readers in Columbus and across Ohio.
Joe Blundo, himself an award-winning columnist for the Dispatch
, put it well in his heartfelt tribute to his colleague: “He saw the extraordinary in everyday people and the absurdity in what others took for granted.”
At Ohio Magazine
, we knew we could count on Mike for an essay or story that required sensitivity, gentle humor and kindness. Executive Editor Vivian Pospisil recalls what a treat it was when a Harden piece arrived on her desk. “Receiving a column from Mike was always a bright spot in my day,” she says.
In fact, every day was a good day when Mike Harden’s work appeared. And even the slowest of slow news days became the best days of all.