For years, Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts has withstood occasional pressure from editors to narrow his focus. “That attitude that ‘it only matters if it happens in my town’ doesn’t work for me, as a columnist or as a person,” Pitts said to me. “I don’t care if it happens in Miami or Cleveland or Kalamazoo, if it interests me, I’m going to write about it.” He added, “It’s about putting the pieces together, making sense of it all.”

As newspapers’ coverage of the world shrinks, the informed columnist will become more valuable. We don’t live in a vacuum, and if we fail to draw connections to events beyond our county lines, we fail our readers in their roles as global citizens.

Many columnists say readers aren’t asking for such a limited worldview. When asked how many readers have complained that he doesn’t write enough about local issues, Pitts’s answer was swift, unequivocal: “Not one. Not ever. Editors sometimes complain, but I’ve never heard that from a reader.”

 

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Connie Schultz is a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2005.