THS journalism student Desiree Gallup pours over the print edition of a newspaper, although she admits she also enjoys reading the online version.

Like many of her adult counterparts, Tahlequah High School student Desiree Gallup spent part of her morning Tuesday poring over the newspaper. She scanned the pages, stopping occasionally to read an item of interest.

Unfortunately, Desiree is part of a growing minority, according to her journalism teacher, Heather Willis.

“Most of my students today are more interested in finding their news quickly,” said Willis. “They’re more apt to read an online news site than to pick up the tactile version a newspaper.”

That’s a trend the Newspaper Association of America Foundation would like to see slowed.

According to the NAAF Web site, March 3-7 is Newspaper in Education Week, and this year’s theme is “Connect to the World With Newspapers.”

The goal of this year’s observance is to get youth to develop a lifetime habit of reading, starting with newspapers.

Daily Press NIE Coordinator Norma Horner does her part to interest even the youngest readers in the news. The Press supplies all Tahlequah Public Schools with copies of the daily newspaper. Sequoyah and Keys High School, Grand View Elementary, Woodall Schools, Briggs Elementary, Keys Elementary and Tenkiller Elementary also get copies.

“I’ve provided each site with a packet sent from NIE that has suggested teaching projects to use with the newspaper, along with games like scavenger and activities,” said Horner. “The lesson plans cover all subjects, including math, language and social studies. And one day a week, we [Daily Press] have a ‘For The Kid In You’ page that has activities geared toward elementary students.”

Tahlequah Daily Press Publisher Charlotte Klutts encourages all youth to get involved in their communities by reading the newspaper.

“NIE is the perfect teaching tool,” said Klutts. “It helps students become informed and involved citizens, while developing a habit of reading.”

Horner also compiled a large tome of NIE information, which is in high demand among elementary school teachers.

“My big book of NIE is making its rounds at the elementary schools,” said Horner. “Right now, I believe it’s at Cherokee. It has all kinds of neat things and ideas for teachers to use when getting the kids involved in reading newspapers.”

Horner said she visits regularly with school librarians participating in the program, and receives a lot of feedback about how the project is working.

THS produces an ink-and-newsprint monthly, but uploads the newspaper to the Web, as well. Willis indicated her students cover a variety of topics, from in-depth reporting, to entertainment and opinion.

“Of course, they like the opinion pieces best,” said Willis. “They’ve gotten really involved this year, too, with the election. We have spirited debate and have learned about delegates and superdelegates. Fortunately, we have access to a free wire service that provides us with graphics for the paper, to give illustration to the pieces.”

Cheree Ediger, 17-year-old senior, was dismayed to learn some of the ethical dilemmas journalists face, particularly when dealing with “spin,” perception and political candidates. She was told if she chose journalism as a profession, she might be prohibited from placing a candidate’s signs in her yard, or bumper stickers on her car.

“Even though I probably wouldn’t [promote a particular candidate], I would still want the freedom to if I did decide I wanted to,” said Ediger.

Willis said the THS newspaper editor was thrilled to actually get to vote in the Feb. 5 primary.

“She turned 18 like two days before the election, but had all the paperwork filled out in advance,” said Willis. “There’s a loophole in the law that allows a person who will be 18 on election day to register in time to vote. She was so happy and took it very seriously.”

One piece the students are working on involves the subject of immigration, another hot-button issue this political season.

“They’re working on a story now about a THS student who was arrested for driving without a license,” said Willis. “He’s in the country illegally, and is now in a Tulsa jail awaiting deportation. The students are very concerned about him, and this issue. Many of them believe there should be a way for kids in these circumstances to attend school and get an education.”

Willis and her students also face another reality professional newspapers face: cost of production. Willis pointed out the online version of the Tiger Review costs nothing to design and upload, while expenses to produce the print version are skyrocketing and ad sales have plummeted due to the current economic downturn.

“I really don’t know how much longer we’ll be able to publish the print version,” said Willis. “We have a hard time raising money in ad sales, and nobody’s interested in buying. It’s really sad.”

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