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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

'Ask Amy': Different Era, Different Column

Aired July 21, 2003 - 20:55   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: It's a new era at "The Chicago Tribune." Just ask Amy. Amy Dickinson's new advice column, "Ask Amy," debuted in yesterday's "Tribune." And while the column follows a legendary run by the late Esther Lederer, better known as Ann Landers, Dickinson wants her to know she really isn't replacing legend, but rather writing a different column for a different era.
Let's ask Amy about it. She joins us from Chicago tonight. Welcome and congratulations.

AMY DICKINSON, ADVICE COLUMNIST: Thanks, Paula. I mean, how can I help?

ZAHN: You can help in a whole number of ways but that'll have to come after this segment is over. Some things are just too private to talk about on television.

Let's talk a little bit about how intimidating it was to dip your toe as it was into this ring?

DICKINSON: It's pretty -- pretty scary. You know, it's one of those things -- and I will give this advice to anybody facing a big thing. Don't think about the bigness of it. It's all about getting through the day. You know, that's what I concentrate on. Is like, how can I do my best job today?

But her legacy is just beyond comprehension. Really.

ZAHN: Yes. But in doing your best job you have to do know some of her committed fans out there are going to be really be looking for a distinctive voice on your part. Is that something that resonates with you?

DICKINSON: Oh, sure. I mean, they've got a distinctive voice. Whether they like it or not, we'll see. But I think so. It's different.

ZAHN: And describe to us for a person who would routinely read the column, what they might find different of what you may write or the kind of advice you dole out.

DICKINSON: Well, I mean like -- I think, like any good advice columnist, I feel my advice is really practical. It's sound. It's truthful. It's honest. And it's very kind of shoot from the hip. I mean, you have to do that. You don't have a lot of space. You can't beat around the bush. You have to tell people you think. I am a little bit -- maybe a little funnier. A little more entertaining. A little more kind of current than Ann Landers.

ZAHN: And the one thing I've often wondered as I read some of these heartbreaking letters that Ann got and that you are certainly probably going to get in the weeks to come, is this the kind of responsibility you must feel who you answer them? Is that something that weighs heavily on you?

DICKINSON: It does. It does. Actually, Ann Landers' longtime editor gave her some great advice that was passed onto me that I intend to follow, when he said to her, just remember these problems aren't your problems. Because I really think it's very important to, like, honor the specific issue that's coming your way. But you absolutely have to keep going, and it is -- some of this stuff -- it's rough.

ZAHN: Do you ever worry about blowing it and trying to say the right thing and actually saying the wrong thing and leading someone to make a very bad decision?

DICKINSON: Well, of course I do. I mean, who doesn't? Really. Blowing it up is anybody's worst nightmare. Yes, I worry about it a lot.

ZAHN: And what is it do you think you're going to draw the most joy from, of taking on the legend here?

DICKISON: Well, you know, I love-- I love the idea of having, like, a dialogue with people. I love the idea that people feel very open with me and free to kind of write to me and they call me Amy as if they know me, and I feel, you know, that's been really a joyful thing. I mean, really a joy.

ZAHN: Well, I'm sure if I were to collectively ask every member the crew, how many questions they have for you tonight, it would be a lot. We don't have time for you to answer all of those. But you might get some in the mail after all. Again, congratulations on your new job and we'll be looking forward to seeing how many fans you gain in the weeks and months to come.

DICKINSON: Thank you so much, Paula.

ZAHN: Hold down my hometown newspaper for me. Thank you.

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