Credit: Flickr, Tumbleweed

Former writer and well-known “60 Minutes” commentator, Andy Rooney, recently passed away at the age of 92. About a month before his passing, he said goodbye in the best way he knew how – by sharing his opinion on life, being famous and writing.

He complained about being famous, but said he can’t complain about his life.

While in high school, an English teacher told him he was a good writer. It was encoragement which would shape Rooney’s 70-year writing career, and impact the rest of the world at the same time.

It’s times like now, as journalism is getting a face-lift into a new era of digital communications, we need to listen to stories from those like Rooney – the charming, yet straightforward 70 and 80-something’s –  to remind us what it means to be a writer. It’s not about the latest and greatest technologies or even about how news and publications are delivered or recieved. It is, however, about going back to the basics.

As Rooney shares in his last video, he wrote for an Army newspaper during World War II called Stars and Stripes. He then went on to work for television and radio. He continues by saying some people have the voice for radio and the face for television. But, they also need someone to write what they said in a way others could understand it. One of the classic principles of writing.

So, rather than getting caught up in the daily hoopla about the latest iPad, the newest social network or the new journalism courses in colleges, let’s go back to the basics and remember what writing is all about. It’s about thumbing through content and reorganizing, rewording and writing in a way readers can best understand.

According to Rooney, writing is also about:

  • Saying what readers want to know or are thinking about;
  • Telling the truth. There aren’t many original thoughts in this world and it’s a writer’s job to articulate the truth;
  • Writing. He says “writer’s don’t retire. They will always be a writer

I, too, was encouraged by an educator (in college) to follow the path of writing and I’m thankful for that. And, I’m thankful to people like Andy Rooney, who are teachers to writers everywhere, for sharing their wisdom and for reminding us that while the way we communicate may change, the value of the written word will never go away.