There are over 900 Newspaper in Education programs in the United States. The coordinating agency for the programs is the Newspaper Association of America Foundation.
Using newspapers in educational settings may date back farther than you expect…and participation has grown continuously through the decades!
June 8, 1795:
The Portland (Maine) Eastern Herald published an editorial that read as follows:
“Much has been said and written on the utility of newspapers; but one principal advantage which might be derived from these publications has been neglected; we mean that of reading them in schools, and by the children in families. Try it for one session... Do you wish your child to improve in reading solely, give him a newspaper––it furnishes a variety, some parts of which must infallibly touch his fancy. Do you wish to instruct him in geography, nothing will so indelibly fix the relative situation of different places, as the stories and events published in the papers. In time, do you wish to have him acquainted with the manners of the country or city, to the mode of doing business, public or private; do you wish him to have a smattering of every kind of science useful and amusing, give him a newspaper––newspapers are plenty and cheap––the cheapest book that can be bought, and the more you buy the better for your children, because every part furnishes some new and valuable information.”
1930s and 1940s:
A handful of newspapers, including The New York Times and The Milwaukee Journal, sponsored programs on their own, including delivery of newspapers plus curriculum aids and teacher training. Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger, wife of the publisher of The New York Times, was unaware that she was becoming the “mother of NIE” when she lent her support to the requests of New York City teachers for delivery of the Times to school classrooms. While no official name was yet affixed to the school use of newspapers, the “Living Textbook Program” was sometimes used to describe the newspaper’s fresh curriculum material available on a daily basis.
This was the decade when the school use of newspapers became a nationally supported program. Keeping pace with educational trends that were shifting from studying the past to studying the present, the newspaper was used to teach current events. In 1954, a circulation executive of The Des Moines Register persuaded the Des Moines school system to survey 5,500 secondary school students to find out how they spent their leisure time. He was upset to learn that 30 to 40 percent of them did no reading outside the classroom, and those who did spent only one-third as much time reading as they spent watching television. Soon thereafter, the National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS), and the National Council of Teachers of English both passed resolutions supporting research on the use of newspapers in schools. In 1956, representatives of 10 major professional organizations in education and the newspaper business met to plan the research. It was this research in 1957 that led to the establishment of a national “Newspaper in the Classroom (NIC)” program. The first manifestation of the national program was the development of three annual graduate credit summer workshops that trained up to 100 teachers each year in the classroom use of newspapers.
The number of newspapers sponsoring NIC programs passed the 100 mark during this decade. The programs encouraged teachers of students aged 9 to 14 to devote two weeks to the study of the newspaper; what it is, how it is produced and how to read it. There was little emphasis yet on the continuous use of the newspaper as a supplementary text in various curricular areas. Local newspapers began to conduct their own promotional and in-service workshops. Some started graduate-credit college workshops similar to those offered on the national level.
The governing Foundation of NIC programs shifted from serving local educators to acting as a catalyst to help local newspapers serve those educators. By the mid-1970s, more than 350 newspapers sponsored local programs. Canada’s programs became a vital part of the picture. In fact, it was the Canadian Daily Newspaper Publishers Association that originated a new title for the program, “Newspaper In Education,” recognizing the expansion of the educational use of newspapers to institutions and organizations beyond the traditional classroom setting. Many newspapers employed educators to promote and administer the program. Educational services departments with several staff members were established at some of the larger newspapers. Because of newsprint costs and the potential for increased circulation counts, almost all programs began to charge half-price for school deliveries.
This was the decade of increased development of partnerships with national education associations. The NAA Foundation and the International Reading Association joined to sponsor NIE Week each March. Newspapers were used in the classroom from kindergarten through college in almost all subjects. Newspapers could also be found outside the classroom for tutoring and adult education, in prisons, mental institutions and nursing homes. Adult literacy became an important component of many programs. Many NIE programs established their own partnerships at the local level - this time with businesses willing to sponsor and pay for the delivery of half-priced copies of the newspaper to schools. By 1989, more than 700 NIE programs were in place nationwide, many of them assisted by a growing number of regional and state NIE coalitions.
As publishers and editors recognized the need to invest in the future readers, the NIE program became more vital to the newspaper. There was a significant increase in youth content during this decade with both locally created content, often written by teens, and through commercially available pages and sections. The number of NIE programs grew consistently with a noticeable shift in their location from the promotions/community services department of newspapers to circulation. The end of the decade saw more than 850 NIE programs active at newspapers across the country.
The new millennium brought a new vitality and focus to NIE. More than 950 NIE programs delivered newspapers and educational programs to nearly 40% of all public school students within the United States. The focus on state standards and state mandated tests brought a clear focus on education to the programs. More than 94% of all newspapers in the United States with a circulation of more than 15,000 daily have active NIE programs. More than 70 years of NIE experience have indicated there is no limit to a good newspaper’s capacity to interest students in learning.