“A good column is one that sells paper. It doesn’t matter how beautifully it is written and how much you admire the author… if it doesn’t sell any papers, it’s not a good column. It’s a terrible yardstick to use, but in the newspaper business, that’s the whole thing.”
-Attributed to Herb Caen
Many newspapers apparently provide copies, daily and for free, of their output to schools. I know this only because I walked into a classroom towards the end of term one this year, where I was due to provide some relief time for the regular teacher, and the teacher was trying to work out what to do with the newspapers. There stack of newspaper that she had received stood around half a meter high, and she pointed to a build-up of the stacks in the corner of the room. They had been receiving them all term, for free, every day during the week.
It got me thinking, how can the newspapers be utilised, genuinely, in today’s classroom, when many of us seek our news online, where we can quickly flick through the headlines to find the ones that capture our interest? Here are a few of the ideas that the teacher gave to me, and some others that I have thought of. I sincerely doubt that any of these are original ideas, so please do not think that I am claiming as such, and so here are my top ten (cue David Letterman music). Not all of these ideas will be appropriate to all stage groups within education. Most of them can be utilised within the primary sector, but some would be secondary.
Those are the top ten things that I think newspapers can be used for in today’s classrooms and is certainly not an exhaustive list (another one that just came to mind is to teach how to understand the weather report, and the difference between weather and climate).
Many of these uses can also be leveraged to create links with the community. Want to talk about ethical writing and reporting – contact the local newspaper and see if they have someone who can come and visit and talk about the journalism code of ethics.
If you have another use for the humble newspaper in your classroom, let me know via the comments section.
Until next time, happy teaching.