Marc Landry is a reader who writes. He reads The N&Os news and opinion pages closely and consistently. Then he takes to the keyboard either to send a comment to a reporter or write a letter to the editor.
Landry estimates he has sent about 500 letters to the editor. Even though theres a 30-day waiting period between letters from the same writer, his letters have been published 81 times.
One of his secrets is to write short and provide illumination. Heres a typical letter from last October:
How embarrassing it is to see a photograph of U.S. officials beaming with pride on an Amtrak train that hit 111 mph (news story, Oct. 20). In 1903, a new speed record of 126 mph was set in Germany. Every day, trains routinely travel at 180 mph in Asia and Europe. Whats next? New and improved buggy whips?
Weve enjoyed Landrys missives, but were making him stop. Were making him a part-time columnist. No more emails. No more letters. Hes moving to the receiving side. Hell start Wednesday and appear on the Other Opinion page every Wednesday after that. Judging by his letter flow, he wont be taking many weeks off.
Theres something eccentric about someone who writes so many letters. And its unusual to want to trade throwing darts for becoming the target. But newspapers, if theyre to be read, must be interesting. And being a little different is part of that but its not all of it. A columnist should have something to say and be able to say it well. Landry, as his letters attest, meets both those standards.
It gets addictive, he says of letter writing. I have opinions, and I like to share them.
Landry, 63, has been a resident of Cary since 1999. A Canadian who has since become an American citizen, he was born and grew up in the Ottawa area. He earned a bachelors in economics and a law degree from the University of Ottawa. His native tongue was French, and he speaks passable Spanish, learned mostly from his wife, Rosario, a native of Bolivia.
Their two daughters are Einstein types: Markita, a UNC-CH graduate, is doing post-doctoral work in chemical engineering at M.I.T.; Alexandra, a valedictorian at N.C. State, is studying for a doctorate in chemical engineering at the University of California-Berkley.
Landry practiced law in Ottawa until Rosario, a Nortel employee, was transferred to the Triangle. They chose to live in Cary based on a photo he saw in National Geographic as part of a story on the North Carolina Piedmont. It was an aerial photo taken of the leafy town aglow with fall foliage. It seemed like an Eden to him. It still does, especially since he arrived after 50 Canadian winters.
In Cary, he has made his way as a substitute teacher. He plans to keep it up, but hes eager to educate through his writing, too.
Landry takes the place of Rick Martinez, who started as an N&O op-ed columnist in 2001 and left in April to join the press staff of Gov. Pat McCrory. Landry isnt a rock-ribbed conservative. Hes more a Libertarian and a contrarian. Hes wary of conventional thinking, political correctness and government spending. Hes closer to Ron Paul than Paul Ryan. And hes nothing like that other Paul, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman.
Whenever I want my blood pressure to go up, Ill read Krugman, he says.
Landry is a hawk on spending and big on self-reliance. In a letter last September, he wrote: There seemingly is no limitation on spending and much of it is borrowed. In the end, any country will be much better off to have more contributors than takers. Unfortunately, the trend has been reversed in our country, and the number of takers has been growing while the number of contributors has been shrinking.
Landrys opinions can be sharp, but in the end hes Canadian. Its his nature to be nice.
Conservatives often call me in a fit of irritation and declare that the reason many newspapers are struggling is because theyre too liberal and out of step with their readers. Usually I hang up and run into the publishers office and say Ive found a way to save newspapers: Write like Sean Hannity talks.
Thats not true. I dont do that. Usually Im left bemused by the idea that when newspapers were fat, conservatives complained that, Youre just trying to sell newspapers. Now they say, Youre just not trying to sell newspapers.
Still, I think theres value in opening the opinion pages to a local columnist who sometimes fails to see the wisdom in our editorials. Thats our definition of the conservative perspective. So here it comes, delivered by Marc Landry, starting Wednesday.
I think youll enjoy his work. If you do, or if you dont, send a letter to the editor. With Landry out of our mailbox, we have a shortfall to make up.
Editorial page editor Ned Barnett can be reached at 919-829-4512, or firstname.lastname@example.org