Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

More than just a riddle February 20, 2019

DO KIDS STILL appreciate riddles?

When I was a kid, I loved them. Some riddles were stupid. Others silly. Many challenged me. Whichever, riddles usually made me laugh.



So when I saw one of my favorite childhood riddles posted in a newspaper stand outside the Faribault post office, I laughed, exited the van and walked across icy surfaces to photograph the posting.

Q: What’s black, white and read all over?
A: A newspaper.

I heard that riddle countless times when growing up. I liked it then, like it still, although the riddle no longer rings reality. Newspaper aren’t read all over. And that saddens me, a former journalist. Too many people no longer value newspapers. Rather, they get their news from other sources, not necessarily the most reliable sources either.

Newspapers and journalists are too often the targets of criticism, much of it unjustified. I’m not talking about the publications that call themselves newspapers, but truly are not in any sense of the word. I’m talking about legitimate “news papers” staffed by hardworking, unbiased journalists.



I value newspapers, especially community newspapers. I value the stories reporters write, yes, even the hard news. I value that newspapers keep me informed, expose me to differing viewpoints on the editorial page, alert me to happenings and issues in my community and elsewhere.

I recognize that my feelings about newspapers and journalists stand much stronger than those of most people. In my days working as a news reporter, I was attacked by individuals who disliked me quoting them or writing on an issue they’d rather not see in print. But their disdain didn’t stop me from doing my job.

We need a free press, a strong press, a press that does not cave to political or societal pressure. Our democracy depends on freedom of the press.

Q: What happens in a country without a free press?



TELL ME: Share your thoughts or share a riddle. Please be respectful in your comments.


Here’s an example of a riddle my second daughter shared with the public many years ago at a roller rink:

A: How do you make a Kleenex dance?

Q: Put a little boogie in it.


© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


29 Responses to “More than just a riddle”

  1. Ruth Says:

    Love your riddle nostalgia. My grandson Charlie likes to ask me a riddle – Q: where does the sheep get his haircut? A: The BaaBaa Shop,of course
    And then you got deep Shirley. A free press is essential to a healthy civilization. Yikes!

  2. Beth Ann Says:

    Riddles definitely make me laugh and certainly some are better than others. I think that there are good and bad journalists as well. Just like in any profession there are the good and bad and sometimes the ones that get the most attention are the ones that lack integrity and don’t really consider the broad scope of the story they are covering. But yes, free press is still important and necessary.

  3. Littlesundog Says:

    I’m not much on riddles but when kids approach with one, I go along with the fun. I was always so serious as a child and I suppose I’m still much the same as an adult. I do read and watch news, but I generally do my own research to find the truth… well, MY perception of the truth anyway. While the words of a riddle are often clever and funny, I don’t find it funny to be mislead by clever wording to mislead or misrepresent in news reporting.

  4. What can travel around the world while staying in a corner? A Stamp. Happy Day – Enjoy 🙂

  5. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    I am terrible at remembering riddles, but there’s this website that I know you’ll like: https://www.riddles.com It’s got riddles, riddles, and more riddles! And a free press? Essential! I don’t want to live in a country without one. Hope I don’t have to find a new country, but I’m always considering my options. Much more so in the past couple of years.

  6. What is a cat’s favorite color?


    Just made that up! I think! xxx hope you are well, dear.

  7. boogie… cute!! 🙂
    Railroad tracks with lots of cars. Can you spell that without any “Rs”?
    t. h. a. t. 🙂

  8. Gunny Says:

    Littlesundog make a very good statement at the end of her text. I am reading A History of American Life – The Rise of the City which is Volume X of XII (published 1933). Seems that Littlesundogs observations have been in play for generations. See Chapter 12.

    A very prominent Newspaper publisher was asked about printing the news. The owner, a woman, stated ” Our goal is not to print the news but to change public opinion”. (Owner of the San Diego Union Tribune). This is pretty much what was happening before 1933.

    I find older books a bit more refreshing in that they seem to come up with opinions or observations that are counter to what my school teachers taught as “gospel”. Kindles are great until one realizes the electronic books can be recalled or the text changed to suit the political climate of the time.

    • The comment of the 1933 San Diego Union Tribune owner is truly disheartening

      I like that you now view your education through a different lens. Presentation and memorization of facts focused teaching/learning when I was in school, with the exception of a few classes, a few creative teachers. My now mid-twenties son tells me my generation never learned how to learn. When I thought about that, I considered that his assessment seems accurate.

      Gunny, I’m always impressed by your knowledge and the comments you bring to my readership. You enlighten me and cause me to think. Thank you. Sometimes we agree and sometimes we don’t. But that’s OK.

  9. I just asked Rick if he had any good riddles….he quoted yours, ha ha. A free press helps keep a government honest.

  10. Almost Iowa Says:

    Riddles make my head hurt. 🙂

    I appreciate what you said about a free press. I understand what it is like for reporters to be verbally abused. I have seen it on more than one occasion, it is terrible and mostly uncalled for, but let us not confuse calling reporters names with restricting their freedom to publish.

    Freedom is the right to call our leaders morons, just as much as it is their right to call us the same.

    On the other hand, perhaps we could all use a little more civility.

  11. Almost Iowa Says:


    I have read that Nick Sandmann, one of the Covington school kids who was in the news recently, is suing the Washington Post for $250 million for defamation of character. The dollar amount is precisely what Jeff Bezos paid for the newspaper.

    I hope Mr. Sandmann wins every nickel.

    Where in the world were the editors?

    I mean, someone should have said, “uh….careful here, these are minors we are writing about… Nail down the facts.”

    The #1 rule of journalism should be: when a story is too good to not be true, it probably isn’t.

    • I had not heard about this. I appreciate that you are so well read and willing to share that knowledge.

      • Almost Iowa Says:

        Using the Covington school kids as an example. According to The Post’s own timeline, after an edited video went viral on the internet, a Washington Post editor assigned a reporter at 3pm on Saturday. That reporters spoke to the Native American activist Nathan Philips. The Post then tried to contact the school and the local diocese, looking for a statement. (on a Saturday?) and published its first derogatory story at 5pm, two hours after hearing of the story.

        Here is the problem.

        The traditional media has been supplanted by social media and digital media and is responding by copying the model of social and digital media. The thing is, no one trusts social and digital media because they move too fast for the facts. People read The NYT and Post because they have a tradition of getting it right by following strict journalistic ethics and standards.

        Once you have thrown ethics and standards away in the wild pursuit of clicks, there is no getting it back. The Post and NYT have become dumpster fires and only have themselves to blame.

  12. pkpm519 Says:

    I do get most of my news on-line, but I try to read as many different viewpoints as possible…sometimes just to shake my head at the nonsense some people believe and spread! ALL the news is important to read, as sometimes we can too easily forget what some of the “fringes” are spreading around…and at lightning speed with the internet!

    BUT…there is something about holding that paper in my hand…and making a clipping, that I may find many years after!Sometimes I get a chuckle out of the things I have saved! Not so easy to do with the quotes and stories I have saved on my computer!
    When one of my nephews was little, he liked riddles, but didn’t quite grasp how they were put together. His favorite home-made riddle was:
    What did the farmer say when he lost his tractor?
    Where’s my tractor? (And he always put a certain emphasis on the word “tractor.”)

    I read all your columns…have saved many…yes, on the computer! And have shared many with family and friends! I appreciate your words!

    And I like to hear about Faribault and area “goings-on” as I grew up on a farm near Dundas, and graduated from Northfield high school MANY years ago. And of course when I was really little…a trip to Faribault was like going to “The Cities!”

    Thanks, Emily

    • Oh, Emily, I’m happy to share with you via my words and images. Thank you for appreciating what I do.

      I, too, like a newspaper in hand.

      That homemade riddle from your nephew makes me smile. The things kids come up with.

  13. Sheri A Eichhorn Says:

    Audrey, you ask what our country would be like without a free press? I shudder to think of it.
    we must have a free press that holds to account politicians, legislators, organizations, churches, businesses. Power can easily corrupt, and free press asks the questions that brings light to the dark places. I am so grateful to the free press, especially during this difficult time when the press is being attacked. And, yet–they continue to do their job, God bless them. We owe them a debt of gratitude!

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