Sometimes when one of the children is sick - I'm convinced that a doctor is society's best friend.

But, then, when the car breaks down I think maybe an auto mechanic is the world's most honorable profession.Take the time I ruined the radiator in my '77 Chrysler. I'll spare you the details, but suffice it to say that a great mechanically inclined neighbor bailed me out.

As I drove home I wondered if my profession is as beneficial to my neighbors as his.

And sometimes I still wonder.

In journalism school they told us that newspapers keep the nation free. Thomas Jefferson said the pen is mightier than the sword. Thomas Paine kindled the flames of the American Revolution with his searing words in "Common Sense." Woodward and Bernstein, and other journalists, forced a modern American president to resign.

But what about your run-of-the-mill daily newspaper? Does reading the newspaper do you any good? Do we journalists serve you as well as, say, a good auto mechanic?

You can guess, I'm sure, that I'll answer yes. So let's see if I can convince you.

Life, really, is a series of choices. Good decisions require information. Newspapers provide information.

Some decisions are weighty. Some aren't. But either way, you'll likely get the information from the newspaper.

Consider:

- What about the tax limitation initiatives? They'll cut your taxes. Will they harm your children's education?

- Oh, you say you don't enjoy 45 minutes of bumper-to-bumper 25-mph-traffic on I-15 in 100-degree heat to get you home from the office each evening. So what's your mayor, county commissioner or state legislator going to do about it?

- Is "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" really as good a movie as your brother-in-law says it is?

- At your age, do you really need a will? If so, how much will it cost and how do you go about getting it?

- Salt Lake City has a new police chief. Is that going to have any effect on police morale - and the level of police service you can expect?

- Supporters tell us that a so-called "Skier Connect" road, connecting 90th South to 94th South east of Seventh East in Sandy, will get you to area ski resorts much quicker. But is it true, as businesses being bypassed by the highway say, that lost business will mean lost tax revenue for Sandy city?

- Just how good is Olympic archer Denise Parker of South Jordan?

- So you're finally going to build your dream home. Would your property tax bite be lower in Murray, Sandy, West Valley City or unincorporated Holladay?

The list, of course, can go on forever. Its worth really depends on your needs. I submit, however, that the need for information is - quite literally - vital.

Maybe this will convince you.

I drove with my family last week to California's Bay Area. A good 40 miles outside of Oakland we hit bumper to bumper traffic, an occurrence not surprising for a Monday morning. But this was a Saturday afternoon.

During the nearly two hours we spent creeping along in that stop-and-go mess, I had plenty time to wonder why we'd found such heavy traffic on a Saturday. Had I been reading the local papers before the visit, rather than the day after, I'd have known.

As I picked up Monday's San Francisco Chronicle, I learned - albeit too late - the reason for our plight: "Monster Party at Candlestick - 70,000 Rockers," the headline read.

Yes, I learned too late that, as we innocently tried to cross the Bay Bridge into San Francisco, we were escorting 70,000 rock fans headed for Candlestick Park and the "Monsters of Rock" concert. Now, if only I'd read an earlier edition of the Chronicle - the one that announced the concert. . . .

So maybe when my neighbor's car breaks down, he won't run to my door. But, in a very real way, I - and my colleagues here at the Deseret News - perform an equally valuable service.

And, just maybe, that service will help my neighbor - and me - make some good choices - some weighty, some not so weighty.