‘You Said It’ shows its age, but may yet be revitalized
During its eight-year life, “You Said It” has inspired a song, earned a special section all its own and prompted spirited community debate. Lately, however, it’s been short on good humor and long on vitriol.
If readers want to keep “You Said It,” they’ll need to save it themselves.
Under the heading “Here’s what’s on your mind,” “You Said It” is a compilation of reader-submitted thoughts on, well, anything and everything.
Sifting through the “You Said It” archives, some topic patterns emerge.
“To the Good Samaritan, Deb, who helped me wrangle the rogue emu back to safety: Thanks, I couldn’t have done it without you.”
And there are complaints — oh, the complaints.
“To all of the two-bit kids who play what they call loud music, They really don’t know what music sounds like. That crap they play on the radio is so far removed from music it’s pitiful.”
Venting is part of You Said It, to be sure, but it’s the humor— intentional or otherwise — that really makes it fun to read.
I edit the column every week, sorting through letters, e-mails, faxes and notes. I get scrawled, multi-page diatribes; letters from jail; and some rants scary enough I suspect I may be subpoenaed to testify at some point. (For the record, I would report direct threats to authorities.)
They come from all over, hoping to be a Sunday paragraph on Page 3A.
Some weeks are better than others. There are times, I’ll admit, when I hold my nose and take the best of the worst. Personal attacks are verboten. Political debate is best left to signed letters in the Commentary section. Conspiracy theories are the purview of fomenting radio talk-show hosts.
Started in late 2001, “You Said It” is modeled after other reader-submitted newspaper columns such as “The Vent” in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
The column was intended to feature pithy, witty takes on western Colorado life.
Said Sentinel Marketing Director Lynn Lickers: “I think we kind of always had aspirations that it would be half as interesting as the AJC’s. Theirs was always so funny.”
Though not urbane-hip, “You Said It” is not without its own, folksy success.
“It did spawn the ‘You Said It’ song, which actually has been recorded and released in multiple revisions by King ‘N Trio,” Lickers said.
David Durham is lead singer for the King ‘N Trio, a group of Grand Junction Rotarians that covers popular folk songs and donates proceeds to charity. He was inspired to write the “You Said It” song in 2001, he said, “I guess because I would read it fairly regularly on the weekends, and the same things kept cropping up.”
Durham continued to add verses. Roundabouts were a lyricist’s gold mine. Judging by the volume of roundabout complaints, many readers find it difficult to engage a turn signal, merge diplomatically, and they quite vociferously like their intersections with neat, 90 degree angles, thank you very much.
The “You Said It” song has been performed all over the valley, Durham said: “And the audience usually got a big kick out of it. I think it just goes to show how closely people follow ‘You Said It.’ “
Durham has written verses on tipping, open space and the Grand Junction City Council, and is still a loyal reader of the column.
“I just think it’s interesting to see what people are upset about or complimentary, but more than often upset,” he said.
The city of Grand Junction is a frequent “You Said It” target:
“The next time I have a front end alignment on my car, I am sending the bill to the city of Grand Junction. It amazes me that no one here knows how to raise manhole covers to street level.”
Writers also use “You Said It” to smoke out offenders:
“To the girls who came into my fenced yard last Saturday night and stole our tinman from the tree: My neighbors got your license plate number. So please return it or be charged.”
Sometimes to shades of “Drag Me to Hell”:
“To the persons who stole our decorative concrete donkey: We hope you are cursed, because our aunt who gave the donkey to us some 20 years ago died the same day you stole the decoration.”
There are the occasional bright spots, when writers hit the wit mark:
“Good grief, the French officials of the Tour de France are accusing the winner of the race, American Floyd Landis, of having too much testosterone in his system. Well, compared to the French, he probably does.”
Is the column worth keeping or has it degenerated into a civility cesspool of no return? Certainly, anonymity can make for nastier exchanges, but it also allows people who would not otherwise write to have their say.
Since “You Said It” started, we’ve added other inroads for reader interaction: comments on stories at GJSentinel.com and public forums at our Community site among them.
But is there still hope for “You Said It?” I’d like to hear your thoughts. Even better, I’d like to see your submissions.
Every few weeks, I get a submission along the lines of “I can’t believe that people complain about dog parks/loud motorcycle pipes/dirty elbows. If that’s the worst thing going on around here, life in Grand Junction must be pretty good.”
You said it.