Why should a newspaper have an NIE program?

The last two generations are not reading like prior generations. Even teachers up to age 35 who grew up in the TV generation have not been raised with newspapers. Human beings are creatures of habit. Reduction of passive TV watching habits and Internet use will take time and effort. Newspapers have made changes in content and design to hold adult readers. What are we doing to get young people interested in our newspapers and keep them interested?


One way is through a good NIE program. That means more than just sending some papers over to the school once a year and hoping for the best. You must open teachers’ eyes to the advantages of using the newspaper. It means conducting workshops for teachers or sending willing teachers to area college workshops. You must work to show them how learning can be interesting and fun when the newspaper is used; how newspapers help prepare students to live and function in “the real world” that the newspaper brings into the classroom.


What are the advantages for teachers of using the newspaper?

Newspapers motivate. Motivation is one of the keys to using the newspaper in the classroom.

  1. Newspapers reflect what is happening in the world outside the classroom, especially in our case, the local community. Children can relate even more quickly to newspapers with primarily local content in small towns where they know a lot of people.
  2. Newspapers are an adult medium. A big seventh grader who can’t read does not like to be seen carrying around “Six Ducks in a Pond”, but he’s proud to be seen reading the newspaper.
  3. Newspapers are a continuous text for students. They teach about the community we live in. The newspaper is the only text that we all have in common with one another. We owe our children the newspaper reading habit.
  4. Newspapers are an influential part of the democratic system. Freedom of the press gives all of us the right to be informed about what is happening in the world around us.
  5. Newspapers are the ideal tool for teaching critical analysis, reading comprehension, and vocabulary. Students can evaluate the source and objectivity of reporter and reader.
  6. Newspapers have something for every interest and reading level. They cater to a wide range of readers and can be adapted for virtually every instructional situation, subject and grade level.
  7. A good news story is one of the best examples of expository writing.
  8. Newspapers are relevant! The language used in the daily or weekly newspaper is the language of the day.
  9. Newspapers can be marked, cut up, pasted and colored – children learn by doing.
  10. Newspapers give a teacher clues about what skills a child is learning, and whether these skills are being carried over to everyday learning experiences.
  11. Newspapers are fun to use in the classroom! We all know that when we enjoy doing something we do a better job and go at a faster pace.
  12. Newspapers teach children to think and read! The reluctant reader can be inspired to want to read.
  13. In controlled tests, newspapers increased levels of achievement by two years.
  14. Newspapers can help involve parents in the learning process.


Before teachers can effectively use the newspaper as a viable teaching tool, they must understand the newspaper itself. We must pass along to our readers the four key functions of newspapers:


1.      Newspapers print factual information (front page, straight news stories, etc.)

2.      Newspapers print opinion-oriented materials (editorials, advice and opinion columns, etc.)

3.      Newspapers want to persuade readers (display ads, editorials, etc.)

4.      Newspapers entertain (comics, sports, feature stories, etc.)


Where do I start?

First, someone must be in charge. That may be you – the publisher/manager, editor, circulation manager, or any member of the staff with the desire and willingness. All must cooperate in the effort.


The ideal situation for a small newspaper is to hire a teacher, perhaps retired or not actively teaching. Perhaps you have someone with teaching experience on your staff who can devote a few hours a week to NIE. Perhaps you could hire a local person for 1-2 days a week who would love the work and not be too expensive.


But anyone can run an NIE program – if they want to.


How do I approach the teachers and schools?

There are many ways to open the door to NIE. You may start with a friendly teacher. Ask around to see if anyone is familiar with the NIE concept and willing to pursue it.


The ideal way is to have a reading supervisor who believes in the program. Not all systems have such a position. You may approach an instructional supervisor, a principal or assistant principal, even the superintendent. Special education teachers and supervisors are other possibilities. Try any and all of these people, checking first to find what positions are in your school. Each system varies. (Hiring a retired or inactive teacher can open lots of doors.)


You may want to ask for time at a faculty meeting or in-service day to address the teachers, or ask permission to distribute a flyer, letter or brochure to all teachers.


Ask teachers what kind of NIE program they want.


Be prepared to provide some teaching modules and ideas appropriate to the teachers’ subjects and grade level. We have examples at Central Office, and can obtain others if needed.


Explain the advantages, cost of papers, free material availability, and delivery date possibilities; also, workshops and even college credit courses paid for by the newspaper.


Use tours of your newspaper offices to promote NIE to students and teachers. You may want to put together a slide show on how your newspaper is produced. Show to classes upon request and promote NIE then. Use LCNI’s First Amendment film and slide show with tape scripts also.


Do a little bit at a time as you go along and the program will grow.


You might even be able to involve teachers in an advisory board to help you develop ideas, teaching materials, and promote the program.


How do I charge for the newspaper?

With single-copy prices at 50-75 cents these days, if you aren’t ABC you may wish to charge 50% of a prorated annual subscription price, per issue. See NIE Pricing Policy on next page. Generally you don’t sign up teachers for a full nine months. You may want to figure a subscriber’s per issue price and charge half that.  ABC newspapers must charge 50% of the pro-rated price per term to allow the papers to be counted as paid bulk sales.


If you are semiweekly or daily, you’ll probably find the schools will only want one issue per week. Give them your biggest issue, unless your goal is to build weak-day circulation, which may not be the best issue for classes.


Charges are really up to you. But remember this – Don’t give your paper away. People appreciate what they pay for, and will use it more readily. They may jump at free papers but not use them fully. The goal is not profit, but break-even or minimal loss.


You may want to offer free papers for an introductory period of 2-4 weeks to promote usage.


Classrooms should have a set – one per student and teacher. But teachers may want to share the set with more than one classroom or teacher. Don’t discourage this. In fact, encourage it. Selling papers is not the main object, but a beneficial side effect. Usage of the papers is important. Some teachers only want the papers every other week. This is cumbersome, but you may have to allow it. Try to get another class to use a set the off week to provide continuity of delivery. Stress that weekly use is best to hold student interest.


Where does the money come from?

That’s a more pressing question that ever before, considering state and federal cutbacks. Some schools have an Instructional Materials Fund that can be tapped. Federal or state title programs or block grants are possible sources. The librarian or media supply specialist (in some schools) might have extra funds.


Service clubs, such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions or Jaycees may have funds for educational purposes. Local industries and businesses frequently want to support education. Professional and individuals may also sponsor. PTAs may help, with a proper presentation.


Some states are earmarking funds just for NIE, or promoting NIE through the State Department of Education. Press associations can share information on that angle.


You may find funding at one of six levels: board of education, superintendent, curriculum coordinator, department chairman, building principal and teachers. Stay in communication with any or all levels if possible.


More than likely, you will have to get commercial businesses to sponsor the papers. Give them a rubber stamp on each copy, “This NIE paper donated by _______________”. You may want to ask subscribers to donate refund balances to NIE.


You might cooperate with the schools, PTAs, or classes on a newsprint-recycling project. Funds could be recycled into more newspapers.


Coupons redeemable for money can be clipped, redeemed by parents, and the returns used for newspapers. Fund-raising events such as bake sales or auctions of donated items can be held. In some states, children can pay directly.


If the question arises of whether this is a profit-maker for the paper, explain that it is a “loss-leader” and, at best, a break-even program designed to encourage newspaper readership while helping improve education. Point out your willingness to provide free or cut-rate teaching aids, hold local workshops and sponsor teachers to area workshops with college credit. Also point out that the price you charge for the papers in only 50% of regular rates.


Where do I get materials to help teachers?


LCNI has access to several sets of teaching modules produced by The Virginian-Pilot, flagship newspaper of Landmark Communications, and other papers. We are also printing our own in cooperation with NIE Coordinator Joyce Hodgins at Carroll County Times. These modules can also be purchased by others at very reasonable rates.


“The Newspaper as an effective Teaching Tool” from NNA is an excellent brochure introducing schools and teachers to the NIE program, and giving ways the paper can be used in various subjects. An order blank for NNA materials is available from NNA Foundation, PO Box 5737, Arlington VA  22205-9998, or call 1-800-829-4NNA.


NAA also publishes a variety of material for sale to members and non-members alike. NAA publishes a bibliography annually listing NIE curriculum publications for teachers and students. Single copies are free from NAA at 703/902-1692.


LCNI has also compiled a number of exercises and teaching ideas on a variety of subjects which are available for distribution to teachers. Please call Max Heath or Deannie Baxter with your needs.


If you have your own press, you can run off materials on newsprint fairly cheap. Just pasteup resource materials in tab format for distribution to teachers.


Ron Anderson’s Circulation Idea Service publishes a monthly NIE service. LCNI subscribes and sends regular excerpts (3-4 times yearly) to LCNI papers.


How do I hold a workshop?

The easiest way for small papers to promote NIE is to send teachers to regional workshops like those put on by state universities. This can help get your program started in a school.


But to reach full potential, you may need to host your own workshop during an in-service day, or after school at a site of your choosing.


If you can get a local coordinator for your program, or a friendly teacher dedicated to NIE, they can conduct the workshop. A series of workshops for small groups of various grade levels might even be more desirable. You should provide refreshments (or meals if it’s a day-long workshop). Have sample teaching modules, activity cards, and other NIE materials to examine and order.


A hands-on workshop leading teachers through exercises that they would have students do is preferred over lectures. Provide adequate newspapers and other materials, such as glue or scissors, if needed. Let them go away with something tangible they can put into use in their classroom the next day.


A teacher who has attended a regional college workshop might be willing to spread the word to others and lead a workshop for you. The Elizabethtown daily and Campbellsville semiweekly have sponsored such workshops.


What else should I do to attract young readers?

A well-rounded editorial package should include some content for youngsters. An easy start is to print schoolwork, such as seasonal drawings, weather pictures, poetry, or short writing assignments or letters. Most of you run letters to Santa. You might try to do even more in this area. Local copy is preferable to filler.


A second step would be to print a “Kid’s Page” featuring such work and some features, syndicated or locally developed, to appeal to children.


There are also a number of other features at less cost that can be used to anchor a kid’s page. The E&P Syndicate Directory published each July is your best source guide.


What are other ways I can promote NIE?

Send a letter or newsletter to teachers and administrators at least twice a year promoting your program. Give details. Send reprints or articles or special interest.


Push NIE to all teachers and classes on those frequent plant tours. You have a captive audience receptive to your paper. Don’t forget to take advantage of that fact.


In classroom talks and visits to schools, explain the purpose and possibilities of NIE.


Talk to the superintendent and board of education. You must work at all levels of responsibility to make NIE go. Start at the top to learn the proper channels.


Print a tabloid brochure promoting NIE. Cost is relatively cheap.


Remember: NIE is a service to education and the community as well as a potential readership builder. Provide newspapers at wholesale rates and free teaching materials. Point out these facts to all you contact. It is not a moneymaking or promotional project


Seek the advice and support of any teachers who already use the program.


Am I really big enough for all this?

Don’t think NIE is just for the big dailies. Students are even more interested in what’s going on in their own town. Teacher’s normally only want one issue anyway, and all papers have at least one issue per week.


We can’t rely just on the big dailies to provide programs to build newspaper readership program. We are best equipped to do for our youngsters what we already do best for adults; provide local news and features to education and interesting to students.








            $26.00 Weekly           /  52  =             0.500  /  2        0.250               25.0 cents per copy

              36.00 Semiweekly    /104  =             0.346  /  2        0.173               17.5 cents per copy

              48.00 Triweekly       /156  =             0.308  /  2        0.154               15.5 cents per copy


ABC dailies must follow ABC rules requiring the appropriate term be prorated; that is 3, 6 or 9 months.




            $110.00  year               /365  =             0.301  /  2        0.151               15.0 cents per copy

                60.50  6 months       /182  =             0.332  /  2        0.166               17.0 cents per copy

                33.00  3 months       /  91  =             0.363  /  2        0.181               18.0 cents per copy




10 STEPS to a Successful NIE Program


  1. Appoint an enthusiastic NIE coordinator. Consider using your school reporter if appropriate. Circulation, news, or a retired teacher on contract could perform the job.


  1. NIE is a team effort. For success, you will need support from news, circulation, advertising and business. Fortunately, in a community newspaper, people often wear two hats, so this is much easier than for a metro daily.


  1. Develop your NIE business plan. Determine how much you must charge for your NIE papers. Set the lowest price possible that will allow you to include it as paid circulation. (The publisher or circulation manager will determine this figure. Note: With newsprint costs escalating, we may have to recover a higher percentage than half the prorated subscription price, per copy, in the future.) Then, determine the incremental printing cost for each NIE paper. (LCNI can help with this.) Use the difference to fund the promotional budget for your NIE program.


  1. Decide who will pay for your NIE papers. Some programs ask the schools to pay for the papers. (Some NIE coordinators have been very successful in helping schools find grants that will pay for instructional materials—such as your newspaper.) Others find sponsors (Partners in Education) to pay for the newspapers.


  1. Don’t be discouraged by a negative response from your advertising sales people. NIE does not take away from advertising sales. Instead, it will increase the circulation and visibility of your community newspaper; thereby making the advertising sales job easier. Make sure your NIE coordinator does not step on your advertising sales person’s toes in seeking sponsors. Potential sponsors are businesses who are not now regular advertisers. Consider utility companies, lawyers, doctors, accountants, local politicians, local foundations, the school’s suppliers, parents or grandparents, civic clubs, etc.


  1. Contact school administrators and teachers to let them know the benefits of the program. Explain the program to teachers and compile a list of teachers willing to participate. It can be done one-to-one, by letter, or in a seminar, perhaps at in-service day.


  1. Match your sponsors and teachers. Your NIE coordinator can discuss with the potential sponsors what age group or teacher they are interested in sponsoring. Some sponsors have a very specific age group in mind. Grandparents and parents like to sponsor their child’s class. Sometimes, it helps just to be able to say that Mrs. Smith’s fourth grade would like to participate, but needs a sponsor.


  1. Tie the bond between teacher and the sponsor. Let the sponsor know who they are sponsoring, and let the teacher know who the sponsor is (and provide a mailing address). Suggest to the teacher that the students write thank you notes. Schedule a visit by the sponsor to their class and take a picture for the newspaper.


  1. Promote the program in your newspaper. Run pictures of NIE classes and list names of your sponsors frequently. Ask your editor to write a column about the program annually.


  1. Provide teaching modules provided by LCNI, other ideas shared by LCNI quarterly, and from Ron Anderson’s NIE Information Service monthly, to give teachers ready-made lesson plans to make it easy for them to use the newspaper.