Newspapers still relevant

Some people say newspapers are no longer relevant. I disagree.

For me, it's selfish. But not for the reasons you might think. At the end of a long day, I get enormous pleasure by putting my feet up on a hassock (remember that term) and reading the news. It's even better if you're doing it with someone else — so collegial.

Let's say you're sitting next to a friend reading the paper, and one of you looks up and says, "Listen to this, 'the source of the mysterious waves of sweet-smelling air that periodically wafted over Manhattan has been traced to "¦' " You smile and look back down at your newspaper. It feels good. Then maybe you say, "Want to hear your horoscope?"

Newspapers provide a sense of community. I cannot imagine life if they didn't exist — they keep us real. As illustration, the pages of foreclosure announcements lately make me more appreciative that my house is not among them and more tender toward those whose houses are.

What prompts me to write about this? I don't' know. Maybe it's because I was away for a few days and the newspapers piled up and I sat down to look at them after I returned, and it was revitalizing in a way I didn't expect. When I hear people say they don't read the paper, I feel sad for them. Especially right now, when the world is aflutter and our futures are outlined in each day's front-page story.

My mother was an avid newspaper reader. She would read her morning paper and then fold it carefully, tie it with a colored cord and lower the paper over her balcony to the woman in the apartment below. That would be the same mother who saved all my columns in a large shoe box — tied with that same kind of bright blue cord.

My love for newspapers could be linked to fond memories of my mother — or maybe it's just my age. I recently read (in a newspaper) that a poll by the National Opinion Research Center indicating 75 percent of older adults (between the ages of 55 and 70) read a daily newspaper. Readership is declining in other age groups but "oldsters" are a loyal and informed bunch.

How about this for "informed" — it's an item from a national newspaper. "Cognitive performance is influenced by color." A red environment makes our work more accurate and blue surroundings make us more creative. For example, if you gathered a group of friends together to brainstorm solutions to a problem, you'd get better ideas if you were in a room painted blue. (Hmmm, I wonder if that idea would be useful to that just-announced Economic Advisory Board). And a red-for-accuracy workroom might help the folks who'll be monitoring the expenditures of the stimulus package.

See how it all ties together?

By the way, a follow-up on those earlier references: That mysterious East Coast aroma came from a factory using fenugreek, an herb/spice with a maple-syrupy smell. And in case you're inclined to know, my horoscope today reads, "Some aspect of your private life will be made public "¦"

Sharon Johnson is an associate professor in health and human sciences at Oregon State University and on the faculty of the OSU Extension. E-mail her at or call 776-7371, Ext. 210.

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