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By Joseph Planta

It’s been almost a month since I, like many others, began my 5th year at Vancouver’s Sir Charles Tupper Secondary. This year, like some years, I’m in some interesting courses. This year one of them is Human Services 11. In a nutshell, it’s a course where one can become knowledgeable in the aspect of serving humans. For example: police officers, teachers, and nurses. Well, after the hokey “Get To Know You” exercises, the teacher assigned a collage assignment where one has to paste on a sheet, what we like or like to do. The assignment was called “Who I Am” and I found myself devoting my 8 and a half by 11 to pasting on my favorite columnists. I was amazed by the amount of columnists I actually read in the papers. It floored me, because I consider myself a person who hates to read. Which surprises many, because I seem to write a lot, at least more than the average Joe. Reading for me is quite boring, but these columnists are who I like.

Among the great scribes that I like, the common thread is that they’re good. Plain good. I don’t happen to be a sports fan, but every week you can bet on me reading Greg Douglas and Neil Macrae. Douglas does for the local sports scene, what Mac Parry does on A3 in The Sun, thrice a week. Macrae, on the other hand is bombastic as hell, and a hoot to read. Speaking of Mac Parry, there’s no one, with the exception of Joy Metcalfe, who can cover the local social scene. It harkens back comparisons to the late and legendary Jack Wasserman who ruled over this great city, eras ago. I join the minions who consider Vaughn Palmer this province’s best political columnist, arguably the country’s. He is so thorough and he’s amazingly well-versed. I wasn’t old enough to read Marjorie Nichols, but he certainly brings us back to that era. Vaughn is also very approachable. Extremely busy with a 5-day a week column, a weekly TV show and a gig at Global, Vaughn can be very generous with his time. Whenever I needed him for something, he was always there. A real class act, no matter what Gordon Wilson says. Rafe Mair, a weekly columnist for The Province, and as such is one of the only reasons that can get me reading that paper. In getting to know him, he, like Vaughn, is a really nice person. He comes on strong, perhaps abrasive and cynical, but he’s quite a generous person. I like what he has to say and with the exception of the ‘boatpeople’ incident, am hardpressed to disagree with anything he says. On the American front, they’ve got some great gossip writers. Army Archerd in Variety is legend, as is Liz Smith in New York’s Newsday. I also, every chance I get, enjoy Mitchell Fink in The New York Daily News.

The National Post has some very good writers. Christie Blatchford is one of the best. She can add great depth and touch, while reporting on some of this country’s most grizzly court cases. In her weekly op-ed column, she can be painfully real and humorous, as well. Roy Macgregor, constantly impresses me with his versatility in writing about sports or politics. This guy knows his stuff. I also, must admit, read Wayne Gretzky’s weekly column in The Post. He’s actually readable, who’d have thunk that? They also have the legendary Morcadai Richler, who’s observations are always interesting to read. Peter C. Newman has just joined The Post’s ranks; his columns in Maclean’s are great waiting room reading material, So are Allan Fotheringham’s pieces. His humor always makes us look at some of our most serious issues of the day.

What I like about these, and many other writers, is that they can say what they have to say in a frank, sometimes blunt way, but it’s a way that’s good, damned good, and classy. The Commentary, in one shape or another, is inspired by these great talents, And in one shape or another are, who I am.

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An archive of Joseph Planta's previous columns can be found by clicking HERE .