Richard Connor: Writing is hard; telling the truth shouldn’t be

Newspaper columns often draw criticism and I’ve had my share. The critics, particularly with political commentary, can evoke the fighting spirit, inspiring a columnist to step back into the ring and take a swing at another deserving target.

My Aug. 15 column reflecting on my family’s cottage in Maine and what it means to us prompted more reaction than anything I have written, maybe in years – all flattering and complimentary.

Some of those who wrote shared stories of similar places or vacations that either started or maintained family traditions of getting away and congregating with loved ones.

Others reacted to what they read as my respect and love for a “sense of place” and the sense of belonging that accompanies it.

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Certainly there is room for interpretation in these responses. They have caused me to search for a deeper meaning in it all but I can’t say I’ve found it. I wrote something from the heart and readers liked it. That simple.

But, maybe not. Perhaps it speaks to the idea of finding a place of peaceful retreat from the digital din of text messaging, email, Facebook, Snapchat, I-phones and I-pads. It may speak to the joy of rediscovering a simpler, slower life, even if it’s only on a week’s vacation.

It’s wonderful to have readers praise what you write but I spent the last two weeks frozen at the laptop believing I needed to write something that would elicit a similar positive response. Silenced by compliments.

The late sportswriter Red Smith once said of our craft, if I may include myself in the same line of work as the great Red Smith, that “Writing is easy. All you have to do is sit at a typewriter and open a vein.”

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Knowing that you can’t collect a base hit, much less a home run, unless you step up to the plate, I decided to rejoin the fray and bleed a little, hoping for at least a respectable line drive.

If it was writer’s euphoria that sidelined me during my block, it was released by the need to join the throngs opining about Ryan Lochte, the U.S. Olympic swimmer who disgraced himself, his team and his country by claiming he was robbed at gunpoint by men posing as police officers in Rio de Janeiro.

It was a lie.

I am father to a 16-year-old who aspires to an athletic career but it would not matter if she wanted to be a great clarinet player or anything else. I hope she learned a lesson about the importance of reputation and how it is directly connected to a person’s character.

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“You can’t lie,” I said to her, explaining why I did not care to listen to Lochte’s excuses. Forget all the seamy twists and turns in his story. If he had not lied, everything would have been different.

My guess is that Lochte’s swimming prowess has made him believe he is entitled because people have been allowing him to get away with bad behavior since he won his first race. He showed himself to be not only downright stupid but also immature. And he’s 32 years old!

Lochte has said he wants one day to be a role model for children. Guess what? He already is.

Take a close look at Ryan Lochte, kids, and you will see that it never pays to lie.

Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at