A few months back our CMA Writers’ Group was joined by Stephanie Smith, editorial director for Scholastic News. Stephanie talked to us about the ins and outs of making news for kids! Remember the colorful news magazines you used to get in classrooms when you were a kid? That’s Scholastic News! And they’re still around and bigger than ever! The newspapers are shipped out to schools all over the place to support teachers’ needs. Current events are not currently (see what I did there?) part of school curriculum (which to me seems goofy) and as Stephanie sees it, it’s our duty to keep up with current events and kids like to keep up with current events so Scholastic News help fill that void in classrooms.
One of the biggest challenges for Stephanie and her team is how to go about reporting troubling news like the Newtown shootings. When troubling news comes up Scholastic often enlists the help of school psychologists to figure out how best to deal with things. It’s important to explain that the event is over and not likely to happen again. Their stories try to take a positive spin and emphasize heroics that happened, especially something that involves other kids. Like after 9/11 Scholastic did a story on kids pitching in to collect money for the Red Cross. They don’t emphasize the gory details and they certainly don’t want to frighten kids any further but certainly if it’s important national news, it needs to be reported!
Looking at these magazines is pretty neat. I myself learned a bit about how astronauts eat and sleep in space. Unless it’s big news, Scholastic tries to contextualize the news so it’s not based on breaking news that may be over with or outdated before kids get the magazines in their classrooms. There’s also an opinion section where kids are asked to write in for the “debate of the week” like whether video games are good for you or not. They’re also asked to write in with advice on a “sticky situation” like what should you do if your friend starts getting into trouble. Tell his/her parents? Talk to them? Keep your mouth shut? Wait, stop looking at me. I don’t have the answer. I was just giving an example…Fine, sheesh. Talk to your friend. That’s what friends are for. Happy now?
Main Takeaway: While adults are yelling that print is a dying medium, circulation for Scholastic News is through the roof because classrooms aren’t caught up to the latest technology yet. And with current events not being a part of curriculum, I think it’s awesome that Scholastic is helping make the kids of today informed citizens. In fact, I just decided to get a newspaper delivered to my apartment because I never know what’s going on in the world and man does it make me feel goofy sometimes. Maybe now I’ll finally get that invite to be on Meet the Press.
Personal Takeaway: You never know what stories are going to grab a kid’s attention. Stephanie said at election time, they got more letters from kids about an article on third party candidates (the kids by and large didn’t know that there was such a thing) than they did on a piece they thought would be more appealing about big cats. Kids if it makes you feel any better, most adults don’t really know there are third party candidates either. This coming from a frustrated third party voter.
Inappropriate Takeaway: Stephanie pointed out that ever since the contested election in 2000, there’s been a big disaster about every 6 months: 9/11, school shootings, war in Iraq, the Star Wars prequels. It’s weird, eh?