Free newspaper content explains Japan’s tragedy to young readers

By: Deena Higgs Nenad

When an earthquake and tsunami hit Japan March 11, Vicki Whiting knew children would be confused and need someone to explain the tragedy to them — in their terms. So as the editor and founder of Kid Scoop, a weekly syndicated newspaper feature for children ages 7 to 12, she went into breaking-news mode.

Whiting cranked out a special edition and offered it free to her regular newspaper customers. Some 3,000-plus papers downloaded the colorful page, with bold graphics showing how a tsunami forms, where the earthquake and tsunami hit, and reputable places where kids could help or donate. Content That Works, the Chicago-based content provider that distributes Kid Scoop, got another 300 requests from media outlets.

“For a few days there, we were really hoping just to keep up with the demand,” said Paul Camp, Content That Works’ “chief evangelistic officer.”

This is not the first time Kid Scoop has put out a breaking-news edition. It did so for other international tragedies, including the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, and the deadly tsunami in Indonesia.
“We’re a small company, so the decision to do this is always a stretch,” Whiting said. “I’m so in awe of my team that they are so moved by a world event that working extra hours and over a weekend isn’t even seen as a consideration.”

The rewards are substantial. “After the earthquake in Haiti (last year), I had a child send me a dollar and three Band-aids,” said Whiting, who made sure a volunteer brought that exact dollar and Band-aids to a recovering child in a hospital there. “I was so moved.”

Rates for Kid Scoop vary by circulation and use, but Whiting said a 20,000-circulation daily could expect to pay about $25 per week. The feature also offers supporting Newspaper in Education materials for teachers, cementing the newspaper’s brand in the schools.

Whiting was an elementary school teacher when she started Kid Scoop in 1985 by convincing her hometown newspaper, The Sonoma (Calif.) Index-Tribune, that something had to bridge the gap between literacy and community newspapers.

“Our very democracy depends upon quality journalism,” she said.

Kid Scoop now appears in more than 300 newspapers, including the Denver Post and San Francisco Chronicle. About 15 percent use it online only. The page includes facts, games, puzzles, and information but also encourages kids to connect to stories throughout the newspaper. The Japan special edition, for instance, said, “Look through today’s newspaper for the names of organizations that help people in your local community. Select one and organize your class to help.”

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Published: May 1, 2011

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