Popular columnist ends 10-year run

When I arrived at the OBSERVER in 2000, I quickly became reacquainted with a friend from Fredonia State University – Dan O’Rourke.

At that time, our religion page was running weekly columns from area pastors. His submission during my first week at this newspaper was headlined “Why 2K?” The premise of the column was that while Christians were celebrating the start of a new millenium, other religions around the world were not.

“By the Hebrew calendar it is not their millenium, rather the year 5760,” O’Rourke wrote. “For Islam it’s the year 1470. For the Ethiopians it’s 1994.”

Since that commentary, O’Rourke has written nearly 600 columns on a twice-monthly basis for the OBSERVER. Unfortunately, however, his run has ended.

In a phone message this week, O’Rourke told me he was ending his “From the other side” column, which has regularly appeared for the last 10 years in the OBSERVER on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month.

Many readers have been able to treasure his columns over the years. The Cassadaga resident has compiled almost all of his submissions into two books, “The Spirit at Your Back,” published in 2007 and “The Living Spirit,” which was published in 2011. He also maintains a web site, www.danielcorourke.com that includes his most recent submissions.

“My efforts as a columnist these past half dozen years have brought affirmation and encouragement, public criticism and anonymous hate mail,” O’Rourke wrote in his first book. “The criticisms did not surprise me. After all if write about hot-button topics like homosexual clergy or war in Iraq, there will be lost of people vehemently voicing their differences. I lost some friends on these issues, but gained many more.”

And all of those friends will miss his continued contributions.

Thanks, Dan.

More than 125 students attended the Western New York Student Press Association Media Day on Wednesday. Besides hearing from keynote speaker Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, the young journalists also attended two sessions led by journalists and took home a number of awards.

Our congratulations to our area schools that have a tradition of excellence in high school journalism. Those schools include Fredonia and Brocton while Dunkirk and Lake Shore are showing improvement every year.

Congratulations as well to the area students who won awards and were a part of the special day, which was put together by Lisa Reinhardt of Fredonia Central Schools.

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John D’Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to jdagostino@observertoday.com or call 366-3000, ext. 401.