Michael Smerconish: Michael Smerconish says, farewell to his friends at the Philadelphia Daily News

Posted: February 03, 2011

Editor's note: Michael Smerconish made history here at 400 N. Broad when, six years after starting a column for the Daily News, he also began a weekly column in the Inquirer. To our knowledge, no one has ever contributed to both papers in quite the same way. In this and so many ways, Smerconish is one of a kind.

But starting next week, having taken on more work for the Inquirer, he'll be found exclusively in that paper. While this is his last column for the Daily News, we will always consider him a People Paper person.

To see why, check out Philly.com/topsmerconish for a selection of our favorite Smerconish columns.

MORE than nine years ago, at the invitation of then-editor Zack Stalberg, I penned my first column for the Daily News. And today is my last, since I'll be increasing my work at the Inquirer.

I was proud of my first column byline on Nov. 13, 2001, when I made the case for Rudy Giuliani to run the Department of Homeland Security, and have remained pleased with my association here ever since.

I've written hundreds of columns since then. Many stand the test of time, others don't. I've taken positions on countless controversies. Most but not all of my views still hold.

For profiling. Against Mumia. For Katz. Against Street. For Ted Nugent. Against Pete Rose.

I recently perused those many columns. Some are forgettable. Others I wish I could dial back. I'm disappointed that I got carried away with a conspiracy theory linking the Oklahoma City bombing to Mideast terrorists.

But I'm proud that on Jan. 2, 2003, I wrote: "I am terribly disappointed in the Bush administration's public case for the war against Iraq."

I called the Duke lacrosse case from the start. ("It's the revenge of the nerds. Most journalists would never be chosen for a pickup game of hoops, let alone a varsity sport. So they take perverse pleasure in bringing down the BMOC, however undeserved.")

And every once in a while, I asked a provocative question. Like, if Alfred Kinsey was correct in saying that 10 percent of the population is gay, why did so few same-sex partners emerge seeking compensation from the Sept. 11 Victim Compensation Fund?

For rebuilding the Twin Towers as they existed. Against the zoo balloon flying so close to the Schuylkill. For keeping the Barnes in Merion. Against the Cuba embargo.

I once wrote that they could fix the sagging ratings of the Miss America pageant if they'd "bring back the busty baton twirler."

That was probably my favorite line. Others have not been not so pleased with my work.

When I was critical of John Street for not firing an aide who reportedly said, "All of these teams are Jews - Jew lawyers and Jew architects - and we need to do something about that," I found myself on the receiving end of a lawsuit by that speaker. (It was thrown out.)

Other attention was more favorable. Remember the kidnapping of Erica Pratt, the plucky little Philadelphia girl who eventually escaped? After I wrote that those close to her were as much to blame as those who kidnapped her, Bernard Goldberg called to say he was using the column in a book, which he did ("Arrogance").

For colored Christmas lights. Against white ones. For legal prostitution. Against women with tattoos.

It's been interesting to reread my old columns. I was reminded that my disgust with the politicization in the country has been building for a while. After the presidential election in 2004 I wrote:

"In every green room in the country, there was a 'liberal' and 'conservative' at the ready, who, even if uncomfortable with those labels, were willing to be accepted as such for the sake of getting their mugs on camera.

"Televised politics now caters to the ideologues, the doctrinaire types. Lost in the screaming is any chance for a reasoned discussion. People at home take their marching orders from them, then parrot what they've heard. And so it goes."

For buying fireworks in Pennsylvania. Against banning beer at Wawa.

Probably the most popular column I ever wrote came during the Terri Schiavo controversy, when I used my column space to publish a sample living will. People still occasionally write and ask for a copy of it.

Certainly the most significant item I published was on April 12, 2004, when I examined a question former Navy secretary and 9/11 Commission member John Lehman had asked Condoleezza Rice at a 9/11 hearing:

"Were you aware that it was the policy. . . to fine airlines if they have more than two young Arab males in secondary questioning, because that's discriminatory?"

Little did I know that Lehman's single question would spur me to write my first book, "Flying Blind."

For a Christmas Village at City Hall. Against a blank check for Pakistan.

Of all that I've written in nearly a decade at the DN, I'm most proud of something published on Aug. 21, 2008, under the headline "Requiem for an Era."

IN IT, I tried to capture how the city had changed in the last few decades based on observations I jotted down while standing in a viewing line as it snaked along a South Philly street.

I wrote the entire column on my BlackBerry, using my thumbs. I never said whose funeral it was because I thought it would distract from my observations, but I was paying my respects to John Dougherty after the passing of his mother, Mary Theresa, so I'm closing that loop now.

Speaking of untimely death, I will never forget editor Michael Schefer for allowing me to use a column to eulogize the passing of my first dog, Winston, evidence of his being both a friend and a savvy editor.

And I'll always be a proud Daily News alum.

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