April 12, 2021

Lewis & Clark Alumna Launches Advice Column at The Oregonian

Lizzy Acker BA ’05 is the pen behind The Oregonian’s new column doling out sharp, honest advice on the big and small problems in life. Acker is a trending news reporter at the paper, covering a range of issues relevant to the Oregon community.

“My husband is the most selectively, weirdly cheap person I know,” begins the first edition of “Why Tho?,” The Oregonian’s latest advice column.

“Before I retrained him, he saved random little bits of wiring, an entire cupboard full of 1980s shoulder pads, canned goods that expired years before, etc.,” the reader (dubbed under the anonymous moniker “Grossed Out”) goes on to write. “But he still refuses to throw out some items, mainly food.”

“Take note of when things expire and throw them away. Clean out the refrigerator and take the bag all the way to the outside garbage. Rinse jars before you recycle them and get your daughter to do it, too,” reporter and alumna Lizzy Acker BA ’05 responds. “And take heart––at least your husband is exposing himself to some germs during this pandemic. It’s probably good for his immune system?”

Writing, and the art of observation, has long been the cornerstone of Acker’s professional life. Raised in Corvallis, Oregon, Acker transferred to Lewis & Clark as a sophomore to study English, and went on to earn an MFA in fiction writing from San Francisco State University.

While living in San Francisco, Acker worked at the public media company KQED, managing social media and covering arts and pop culture for the site’s freshly launched blogs. Later, she would publish a book of short stories and become one of many Lewis & Clark alumni to begin a career in journalism.

After eight years, Acker moved back to Portland, joining The Oregonian’s trending news team, a group of reporters covering hot-button issues.

“I’m from Oregon, I’ve known about [The Oregonian] since I was a kid,” Acker says. “It was a dream. There’s nobody there that doesn’t believe in what they’re doing.”

The idea for an advice column simmered in the background of the newsroom until the COVID-19 pandemic brought the complexities of social relationships into sharp focus. For Acker, adapting to her new role as an advice giver has involved a learning curve.

“One of the first ones I got, I was like, ‘Oh, am I qualified to do this?’ Some of the questions are very personal and heart-rending,” she says. “It’s a bigger responsibility and harder than I thought it would be, but I’m trying to take it seriously.”

“Why Tho?” might be new in the world of advice columns, but they have been a staple of newsrooms for generations.

“I think people love to read about other people’s lives,” Acker says, although she speculates that this interest may have spiked during pandemic lockdowns. “We are completely gossipless in this world of not going into the office, not seeing our friends in person. Gossip gets a bad rap. But it’s fun to think about strangers.”

Write to Lizzy Acker and “Why Tho?” at lacker@oregonian.com