published Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Roberts: Papers are ever fresh to me


by Dalton Roberts

There's an attitude floating around among us that newspapers are old-fashioned and all other media are modern -- especially computers. I hold a different view. I see newspapers as ever-fresh, new and modern no matter how long they have been around.

You do not judge everything that is old to be old-fashioned and out-of-date. That which continues to contribute quality to our lives may adapt, as newspapers have by connecting with the world of computers, but newspapers serve fundamental human needs, and that fact alone keeps them in tune with the times.

Age and the trends of the times have little to do with what is relevant, fresh and vital. This is true of everything, including people. Age and trends do not diminish the value of people. Someone has said that when anyone dies, it is like a library burning down. Each person is a walking library of vital knowledge, and this is true regardless of times and trends.

Take any feature of a newspaper and stack them up for a year, and you have a year of pure history and vital information. If you clipped out just the stock reports, you would have a slice of the business world in the nation for a year. The same is true of sports and comics and anything else newspapers regularly feature.

I have always been overwhelmed by the value of a daily newspaper as a teaching tool. A year when I taught political science at UTC, I used a textbook and newspapers. I do believe the newspaper outshined the textbook because just about any political issue of the day surfaced in its pages.

A teacher of GED students on Sand Mountain recently used my column on a man I nominated for my personal Hall of Fame to allow the students to nominate people they would place in their halls of fame. She was so excited by the enthusiasm it generated that she wrote me to share the news. No, newspapers are not outdated. They are forever in tune with the times because they deal with fundamental human needs.

My cousin was a paratrooper in several wars and was a sports addict. He was my hero as a kid, and I clipped stories of his favorite teams for a long time and mailed them to him. He recently died in his 80s and still talked about how much those stories and that information meant to him no matter where he was in the world and which war he was fighting.

In newspapers, we have little slices of history. I saw this so clearly when I bought my present home. I found two old newspapers from the '50s when this house was built. The reporters were mostly dead and gone, but their work was right there for me to see. One in particular was Fred Hixson, and I remembered being his roommate one time at Erlanger. Reading his stories over a half century later was a fresh and captivating experience for me.

I treat a newspaper like a book. You can go back to a book many times over the years and reacquaint yourself with its ideas and information. I go back to some issues of the paper over and over.

If you are thinking I am addicted to newspapers, you are right. It's one of my few addictions that's brightened my life.

Email Dalton Roberts at DownhomeP@aol.com.

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