The Story Behind “the Numbers”

When I started putting together the By the Numbers column for the Pulse seven years ago I didn’t know if folks would pay much attention. Most of the statistics I gather for the column have little direct correlation to Door County, which can bring the “why are you wasting space in our local paper on that stuff” complaints. Yet invariably, when I run into readers in the community, they tell me that By the Numbers is the first thing they turn to when the paper arrives in their mailbox.

I could take this as a shot to my writer’s ego, (it’s not writing, after all, and if it’s the first thing they turn to it means they’re immediately bypassing thousands of – sometimes – painfully crafted words to go to the column that is essentially a brief aggregation of some of what I’ve read the last couple weeks) but I don’t.

It’s accomplishing precisely what I hoped, piquing the interest of readers into issues that I simply don’t have the time or space to delve into in the Pulse.

With each edition of By the Numbers I hold out hope that just a few readers will be intrigued enough by this glance at a topic to dig a little deeper. I figure that if a just a few people read another article about, say, the declining nutritional value of our tomatoes that comes from our focus on appearance over taste, then maybe they’ll begin supporting a local farmer instead of an industrial producer.

Maybe something similar happens just once with each By the Numbers, which over seven years and more than 150 columns adds up to a real impact. I hold out hope that it does, making it more than worth that small slice of the paper my editors kindly give me each week for my indulgence.

And if that’s the only thing I write that you read each week, I’m not offended. I just hope it spurs you to dig deeper.