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Column: Digital Age cuts down on legwork

We’ve had an influx of younger reporters in the newsroom in recent months, a very good thing indeed.

So far, I haven’t had the opportunity to regale them with stories about how we did journalism research in the days before the Internet.

We walked over to the public library, for instance, and looked stuff up in encyclopedias, books and in back issues of magazines. Or we thumbed through clip files in the newspaper library.

But it might surprise them that I hold very little nostalgia for those “good old reporting days.” The Internet makes our jobs so much easier and more efficient. And in many cases, more accurate.

It also makes some research possible that was once impossible. For instance, recently I hoped to make a reference to the jingle in the Lucky Charms cereal commercials from the 1960s. I found the commercials on YouTube. I also went looking for examples of birthday parties in the 1950s, and on YouTube I discovered home movies of birthday parties from that era, posted by boomers who attended those parties long ago.

Before the Internet, those 1960s commercials would have been stored in an ad agency’s vault and the home movies stored in someone’s basement. Inaccessible to journalists.

My friends and I do get nostalgic, however, for childhood afternoons paging through encyclopedias at home.

JUST SAY MAYBE: It’s flattering to be asked to be an executor of someone’s estate after they die, but a recent AARP article said people should weigh all the realities before saying yes. It takes a lot of time. And the hassles can mount when family members disagree about the job you’re doing. Also, it can get expensive if you must travel to another city to settle a person’s financial affairs.

Make the decision about it the way you did in your 30s and 40s when friends or family members asked you to be guardians for their children.

Do you really want the responsibility?

SPEAKING OF AARP: The organization’s AARP magazine is sponsoring a contest looking for the “new faces” of people 50 and older. They call it a model search, but it sounds like you can’t just be a pretty face. You submit a photo, your motto, and a short essay describing how you are living your best life at 50-plus. Seven winners get a New York photo shoot. Go to for more information.

And by the way, do you have a motto?

LA PASSEGGIATA: After their evening meal, Italians hit the streets of cities, towns and villages for leisurely walks, greetings friends and strangers, enjoying the outdoors. The older women and men even dress up for the nightly tradition.

La Passeggiata – as the social tradition is called – has not ever caught on in the United States.

If it did, the tradition could prevent diabetes. HealthDayNews recently reported that adults who take 15-minute walks after meals are better able to control blood sugar levels.

The after-dinner walk counts the most because that is an “especially vulnerable time for older people at risk of diabetes,” according to the article.

The International Diabetes Federation ranks the prevalence of diabetes in different countries; the higher the rank, the more diabetes. The United States ranks 29th; Italy ranks 129th. Maybe someone out there will start La Passeggiata clubs in Inland Northwest neighborhoods. Except we wouldn’t require the dressing up part.

MIND THE GAP: This is the phrase used on London’s subway system warning people to watch out for the gap between the platform and a train’s door.

Writers and speakers have mined it for deeper meanings, using it as a metaphor. Mind the gaps in our lives, in our memories, in our dreams. You get the idea.

Are there metaphors lurking in signs we see everday, such as “In case of fire use stairway” or “Lane ends merge left.”

I yield this discussion to Boomer U readers.


•  “Idaho Migration and Settlement” – the final talk in the “Road to Statehood” series by historian Ron Hatzenbuehler from Idaho State University, Thursday, 7 p.m. at Coeur d’Alene Public Library, 702 E. Front Ave., Coeur d’Alene, (208) 769-2315, ext. 426.

• Paper cutting workshop with artist Rollin Thomas – learn the basics of paper cutting from folding to design, Saturday, 10 a.m. to noon, registration required, Spokane Art School, 809 W. Garland Ave., (509) 325-3001.

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