Newspapers remain important

Thursday, March 10, 2011

This week is Newspaper In Education Week, and in keeping with that theme, the Missouri Press Association has made editorials written by students in Dr. Clyde Bentley's Editorial Writing class at the Missouri School of Journalism available to member newspapers. Two of these editorials appear below.

In a world of skewed realities, newspapers keep young people grounded

By Andrew Jenkins

Teaching young people to use newspapers and keep up on current events is vital not only to their personal development, but also to the successful growth of their community as a whole.

All too often, young people -- and older folks alike -- are wrapped up in a world of facades and false realities. Undoubtedly, most children would rather play videogames, watch TV or flip through teen magazines than read a newspaper. Those media do provide some value to young people, though mostly through entertainment and spectacle.

However, those media also more times than not present a skewed reality. Invincible players on videogames, scripted relationship drama on "reality" TV and Photoshopped images of models in fashion magazines are alluring, but they ultimately give a false perception of reality to young people.

Newspapers, on the other hand, show young people what the world is really like. They help people of all ages understand what is going on in the world as a whole as well as in their very own backyards. Newspapers can prepare young people for the real world that awaits them -- whether that's by simply bringing along an umbrella because they see it's going to rain or by going to their local polling place on Election Day a little more prepared to vote for a candidate or on an issue.

How can we expect young people to grow into responsible adults later if we don't give them the tools they need now to foster a curious mind that's interested in what's going on around them?

Of course, young people will still be more likely to pick up the game controller, remote control or teen magazine. That's largely inevitable. But, we should encourage them to pick up a newspaper regularly, too. It will keep them grounded in reality.

Andrew C. Jenkins is a University of Missouri senior who is majoring in print journalism with minors in geography, film studies and religious studies.

Times change, but the power of the word remains

By Alison Jung

Reading has always been a large part of my life.

As a young girl, I would sneak books and flashlights under the covers at bedtime to read after the lights were out, and in school, I would itch for a chance to pick up my book and learn what was going to happen next. I yearned for stories.

My grandmother swears she was there the day I really learned how to read, the day it just all made sense. "Your eyes just lit up, and I could see that you got it," she always tells me. With her help and my mother's I learned to love reading. They would read to me, I would read to them, or we would just sit in silence as we read to ourselves. Books filled my mother's nightstand and bookshelves, and slowly they filled mine, as well.

In numerous studies, reading researchers have agreed that the reading habits of parents and other authority figures influence the reading habits of children. Through my own experiences, I know this to be true. My parents and teachers valued reading and encouraged it. Today, I see my 8-year-old sister learning the value of reading from those same people.

However, some things have changed.

With the evolution of technology becoming much more prevalent in our everyday lives, our world is changing, and that includes the world of our youth. They are learning the value of computers and the Internet over the value of the simple written word. And although technology is an effective addition to our lives at times, it is also diminishing the accessibility of reading to children.

Children don't have computers. They don't have iPads, or iPhones, or Kindles. Their parents might, but then again, children often need supervision when using these devices. Add this to the fact that many children are only seeing their parents read on these devices, and we begin to understand the influence that technology can have on our children's reading habits. When books and newspapers become foreign objects to parents, they become foreign objects to the children who should be comfortable using them.

Anyone can pick up a book or newspaper and read it; not everyone can get on the Internet to read.

Newspapers in Education programs provide children with the chance to become readers by introducing the act of reading the newspaper at a young age. Letting children become familiar once again with the printed word is a gateway into their lifelong reading habits, whether those be online or in print. And that is a necessity.

Alison Jung is a senior magazine journalism student with a double minor in English and linguistics. Her focus is on magazine editing, which helps to satisfy her love of language.