By: M.L. Stein Idaho daily's newspaper-in-education circulation among fifth-graders increases from 300 to 22,500 in one year sp.
THE COMBINATION OF a dedicated newspaper-in-education coordinator and a hard-working telemarketer has added up to a remarkable success story at the Idaho State Journal in Pocatello. Newspaper-in-education circulation among fifth-graders jumped from 300 total copies to 22,500 total copies from the 1992-93 school year to the current, according to publisher Don Byrne. He attributed the rise to the efforts of NIE coordinator Margie Keenan, a former teacher who developed the Partners in Education program in which businesses pay for classroom newspapers. "Knowing how teachers think, and what they need, is essential," said Keenan. She credited an important part of the success of the paper's NIE project to a telemarketer who worked six hours a day for 21/2 months. She was paid a $10 commission per sponsor, plus an hourly wage. "Our telemarketer got so enthused about the program that she started making telephone callbacks in the evening," recalled Keenan. "She came to our teacher workshops and when the teachers cheered her, she shed tears of joy." Keenan said some retail sponsors become involved with the program on a personal level. She cited a deli owner who brought sandwiches and juice to "her" classroom and told pupils about her business. The kids made a "thank you" banner, which now hangs in the deli. "This is what we really mean by partners," Keenan noted. "It's not just getting businesses to pay for newspapers. It's helping to forge positive relationships between businesses, schools and kids." Byrne said 75 businesses have signed up for the program. "While the main purpose of NIE is to help in the information process, we feel we are creating future readers, judging by the attention Partners is receiving from teachers," he commented. The Pocatello Partners program started when Keenan sent NIE information to about 1,000 businesses gleaned from the phone book. Instead of one mass mailing, the material was sent in four separate mailings of about 250 each, enabling the telemarketer to call stores shortly after they received the information, Keenan said. Businesses were offered three packages costing $270, $167 and $75. The first included classroom sponsorship, a "Design an Ad," a "Dear Santa" Christmas ad, and sending the teacher to the newspaper's NIE Workshop attended by 65 teachers. The second option involved classroom sponsorship and the ad, and the third, just sponsorship. The names of all sponsors appear in a monthly full-page ad, and their business name is placed on the bundle top sheet that goes to the classroom. The classroom door displays a laminated certificate with the name of the business. Keenan writes a weekly column, "Teacher's Spot" for the State Journal to aid teachers and parents in getting children interested in newspapers. When she missed a week because of the flu, 28 readers called in to ask about its absence. Another Northwest NIE coordinator, Christine Bubb of the Spokane, Wash., Spokesman-Review, also writes a weekly column, "News Notes," which contains ideas for teachers using newspapers in the classroom. The column is printed at the bottom of the Wednesday Kids' Page.