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‘Great columnists make the difference great sauces make’, claims Bernard Shrimsley (2003: 23) in reference to those writers who assume personalities, sometimes fictitious, to opine to an audience to whom they appear familiar and friendly (Silvester, 1997: xi). The column, sometimes categorized as ‘personal journalism’, is a natural development and refinement of the traditional essay and belongs to the age of mass newspaper consumption. Columns, which tend to respond to contemporary events and shared experiences, usually appear regularly in the same publication (ibid.). Both broadsheets and tabloids are addicted to columnists (Shrimsley, 2003: 25).

The role of the columnist has been varied and may change, according to one historian, ‘from teacher or entertainer to the passive onlooker who records the pleasantries of everyday life’ (Silvester, ...

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