A veteran journalist turns it over to the cyber-generation, inside PTSD and the benefits of coffee

Posted at 5:27 AM, Dec 08, 2014

Jonathan Yardley wrote book reviews for The Washington Post for more than 30 years. On Sunday, he published his farewell column.

His parting thoughts will be familiar to many of us who find ourselves suddenly older than we were 20 or 30 years ago, when we first thought we were grown-ups. Talking about the relationship he imagines with readers, Yardley writes:

In the past several years, though, the context in which that conversation takes place has changed radically, change with which I am not really comfortable and with which I do not regard myself as especially competent to deal. Age — I am, to my considerable astonishment, 75 years old — has much to do with it: Having spent more than half a century in newspapers, with occasional side ventures into magazines and books, I probably am too deeply entrenched in yesterday’s journalism to practice today’s as effectively as I’d like. I delight in computers and spend far too much time in front of one, but I do not know how they work or how to take more than minimal advantage of the many opportunities and challenges they offer. I do know, though, that cyberspace is where my fellow journalists will be working into the (very much unknown) future, and that it is time for younger people who know what they’re doing to be at the controls …

If you don’t know Yardley, still take a look at his final treat for book lovers, a list of some of hisfavorites. I give one sample, a book my family also loves:

Beryl Markham: “West With the Night” (1942). This memoir by a pioneering aviator — in her day those of the female variety were called “aviatrixes” — was originally published in 1942 and brought back to life in 1983. It captures all the thrills of aviation in its early days, is written in a most engaging voice and has lost none of its appeal over the years.

For many years, Tom Ricks was the military correspondent for The Washington Post and one of the best in the country. In The New Yorker this week, Ricks writes a brief, honest essay about his descent and escape from PTSD:

It began during the second Iraq war:

In the back of my brain, an unconscious thought was growing, whispering, insisting on being heard: something is very wrong here. It hit me hard; it was a personal feeling. This wasn’t a matter of policy, this was a matter of my life: This war is going to be very different from the other conflicts you have covered, I thought, different from Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan. Something here has grabbed ahold of you. You have lost control of your future.

For reasons that I still don’t understand, my mental elevator-ride down accelerated on a trip home in early August, 2004. It began with a daylong flight on an Air-Force C-130 Hercules cargo plane. We flew from Baghdad, but, instead of going directly south to Kuwait, we first went north to Mosul, then sat on the hot runway for what felt like three or four hours. It was probably about a hundred and twenty degrees inside the plane. We took off dripping in sweat, froze in our wet T-shirts while in the air, and finally landed in Kuwait City late at night.

Finally, from the Atlantic, an article important to 90 percent of Americans, “The Case for Drinking as Much Coffee as You Like.” Here is the bottom line:

The evidence remains overwhelmingly in coffee's favor. Yes, it was observational, but the study published in May in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at hundreds of thousands of men and women and found this bottom line result: people who drank coffee lived longer than those who didn't.

And the more they drank, the longer they lived. If you're into that sort of thing.

And who says we only report bad news?

[Also by Dick Meyer: Does our acceptance of violence stem from pop culture?]

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