As a card-carrying columnist for the past couple decades, I feel compelled to note the most recent index of the public's regard for my profession. In this month's Advertising Age/Ipsos Observer American Consumer Survey, released on Tuesday, my countrymen and women -- at least, those who still subscribe to newspapers -- were asked the main reason that they subscribed. A near majority, 49.6 percent, said it was for the local news. In second place, at 21 percent, were those who subscribed for the coupons. Next, in descending order, came those who subscribed for the national and international news (14 percent), out of habit (7 percent), for other unspecified reasons (4 percent), for the obituaries (3 percent), and, coming in dead last, for the columnists (2 percent).

Not to overstate the virtues of humility, but Americans are more eager to read our death notices than our work product. I could argue that the gap between "obituaries" and "columnists" falls within the margin of error - but that argument, I suspect, would be one more reason why Americans prefer the obits.

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