Heated Response: ‘E&P’ Readers React to Today’s Story About NIE Study

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By: E&P Staff

Joe Strupp’s article this morning about a new Carnegie Knight Task Force study suggesting changes in the Newspapers in Education program certainly sparked a quick response from our readers. Here is a selection of letters we’ve received on the piece (more will be added throughout the day as they come in).


The survey on Newspapers-in-Education may have some validity, but it’s not as sweeping an indictment of the programs as your article suggests. The survey was of civics, social studies and government teachers: a single slice of the pie. The meat-and-potatoes of NIE has always been upper elementary teachers. Perhaps they should have begun by surveying NIE professionals to find out who their customers are.

Granted, it would be nice to hold on to high school social studies teachers. But, particularly for small papers with a limited national/global news hole, they’ve always been a challenge. Should they be using the papers to teach local government? Sure. But, just as most features editors would rather run stories about Brittany Spears than the theater troupe in town, so, too, most government teachers would rather talk about Washington than about town hall. And it’s generally too much to ask for teachers to connect the stories on accidents, for example, with stories about funding of police or highway departments.

And that’s not just NIE’s problem — that’s everybody’s problem.

Meanwhile, NIE has serious, serious problems, but the defection of high school social studies teachers to the Internet is not at the top of the list.

Besides, haven’t you heard? We’re all going to get rich when people log on to our Web sites instead of buying the paper!

Mike Peterson
Farmington, Maine

Your article on NIE was interesting but the conclusion that NIE program directors are viewing their world through rose-colored glasses is seriously flawed. I can’t expect that E&P would have known this without checking the facts with several NIE Directors and it appears that you did not. Had you offered NIE Directors an opportunity to respond to the survey, you would have been able to present a more balanced view of the true state of NIE.

The problem lies in the survey itself. You state that, “The survey polled 1,262 social studies, civics, and government teachers, who were asked about their use of news in the classroom, as well as 253 Newspapers-in-Education directors at daily papers.”

But, the fact is that the main audience for NIE programs is not and has never been high school students or teachers. I was NIE Coordinator and Manager at Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. for 16 years. For the last 11 years, I have been president of an NIE syndicate producing and marketing NIE curriculum products. During my term at PNI, we surveyed teachers yearly. Without exception, each year, about 60% of our market was middle school teachers, grades 5-8, with the other 40% about equally divided between elementary school (grades K-4) and high school. The reason for this is simple — high school teachers have a very narrow timeframe and a very specific curriculum. With about a 40-minute period, high school teachers simply do not have a great deal of time to step away from their textbooks. And, with the emphasis on standardized testing, there is even less likelihood that they can augment their texts with newspapers.

Middle school and elementary school teachers have more discretion in using materials to meet their goals. Although they too have increased pressure to improve test scores, they have discovered that newspaper use can actually address standards and testing. I have also taught elementary and middle school and know this to be true. In addition, NIE programs offer a much broader range of material than that which only meets the needs of social studies and government teachers. Content areas including language arts, math, and science are also covered. The survey here was limited in its scope. NIE is not.

In meeting the needs of NIE program directors for the last 11 years, we have found that middle school and, recently elementary school teachers are, in fact, as the NIE Directors in the survey accurately reported, showing an increased interest in NIE. Why is this? Because teachers have discovered that using newspapers in the classroom can help them meet their objectives in all content areas and with all types of learners.

If NIE Directors indicate, as you state, that more local teachers are interested in their programs, then that is exactly right. They would know this for a fact and their belief in it is certainly not “viewing the world through rose-colored glasses.” They are simply and accurately in touch with their markets.

It is not unlike if vegetarians were surveyed about how often they ate at at McDonald’s and the conclusion was that Americans were eating less often at McDonalds despite a survery of McDonald’s Managers that says that their business is increasing. Given that vegetarians are not the main consumer at McDonald’s, that would surely be the wrong audience to survey. And the fact that vegetarians don’t eat there often wouldn’t mean that McDonald’s was losing business overall. And, wouldn’t the McDonald’s managers know for sure if their business was increasing? Or would the survey conclude that McDonald’s managers were viewing their world through rose-colored glasses just because vegetarians didn’t eat there?

Thanks for taking the time to read this. Those of us who work happily NIE appreciate your interest in what we do.

Deborah Carroll
President, Hot Topics Hot Serials
Wyncote, Pa.

Just read your article?Major Survey Finds ‘Need to Rethink’ NIE Programs.?What a flawed study! We have a very successful NIE program here at the Mount Vernon News. Out of the 176 teachers who use our newspapers, only 11 are high school teachers. In the 10 years since I began this program here, we have never had much success with high school classrooms. And that’s okay with me, because we get the elementary and middle school students. And for a small daily paper (9,400), I’d say that the 85,000 newspapers that we put into the schools each year is a great success.

Michelle Hartman
NIE Coordinator
Mount Vernon News
Mount Vernon, Ohio

The major flaw with this study is that most NIE programs are focused on upper elementary and middle schools. The study?s authors are obviously working under the illusion that NIE is all about current events. It?s simply not true. Most NE programs that I know of have no more than 30% of their papers going to high schools ? and many of those go to English teachers. Yet, the only teachers surveyed were high school social studies teachers ? a very small percentage of our users. A survey of the bulk of NIE users would show that they want the good old-fashioned print edition which can be manipulated, cut and pasted, and taken home.

Of course, I have to admit, If I were a current events teacher, I would use the Internet. Cuts to news-hole over the past several years have limited the space that newspapers have to cover national and international events. It has unfortunately forced people who want to read depth and breadth of this type of reporting to the internet. Although I get two newspapers delivered to my home, I still read several websites each week to stay abreast of national and international news. Sad to say, it?s simply not in the papers on my porch anymore except in a very abbreviated form.

Jacki Hagel
Assistant Manager/School Services
Detroit Newspapers in Education
Detroit, Mich.

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