If we can believe our reader surveys - and there's no reason not to - only six out of 10 of you have turned to this section of the Deseret News - and only half of that number has paused long enough to get this far into this article. And now that you've started, it's a good bet you may not read to the end.

Add the fact that today's the last holiday of summer . . . well, you get the picture.So for the three out of 10 of you (which totals about 20,000 readers collectively) consider yourself in rare company.

Reading is a dying activity for a lot of people. I consider aliteracy - those who know how to read but choose not to - our biggest challenge in the newspaper business.

Wasatch Front residents - who boast some of the highest education levels in the country - are lousy readers when it comes to newspapers. They prefer television news, much to our chagrin and television's credit. You don't have to travel very far from Salt Lake City to know that the three local newscasts here are among the best in the country.

The competition for news is fierce, and the audience is fragmenting beyond what anyone would have believed even a decade ago.

Bona fide news junkies, such as myself, are never far from the radio, television or newspaper. (I subscribe to three papers myself and receive several others at the office.) I also read other things, including magazines, books and even cereal boxes. My one concession to Ringwood household peace has been to drop cable TV and CNN now that Channel 13 has become VHF. After all, there is a limit to how much news a 6-year-old will tolerate.

Certainly the purpose of a newspaper is to inform. It's also, like most television, to entertain. A newspaper also tries to provoke readers to action. Beginning today, every politician knows that the campaign officially shifts into its final frantic stages. Our polls tell us that many of you have already made up your minds about a number of candidates and issues. Some of you are still undecided, and you are the ones who are about to be bombarded continuously until Nov. 8 by the candidates and pollsters.

There's obviously more happening, informationally, than the election, but it's bound to dominate the front pages and newscasts for the next 10 weeks. That's warning No. 1.

The one thing that newspapers do better than TV is they allow you to haul the news around with you and look at it at your leisure. You don't have to be glued to your set - or have your VCR programmed to capture it. Newspapers are convenient - they also require activity. If nothing else your eyeballs get exercise scanning the width of each column.

But I read newspapers for one singular reason: READING IS FUN. It's rewarding; it's something I look forward to every day. Last week, in the midst of war and crime, politics and taxes, air crashes and espionage, were a number of stories in the Deseret News that were worth reading for pure pleasure, as well as for the information they conveyed. I cite only a few:

- Carrie Moore's interview with the Dallas fire official who helped pull the Delta pilot from the wreckage of Flight 1141.

- Jerry Johnston's C1 package of performing artists.

- Dennis Lythgoe's profile of Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis.

- The Panguich skunk story, which appeared on A1, then was picked up by the national wires and landed in USA Today.

If you missed them, it's too bad. As you stumble across stories that strike your fancy this week, that tickle you or motivate you or even enrage you - share it with someone. Read it aloud to them. You'll help double the number of Deseret News readers.

Help us stamp out aliteracy.