Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Commercialization an NIE Danger?

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Commercialization an NIE Danger?

Article excerpt

AS CORPORATION MAKE ever more aggressive marketing inroads into the classroom, could News paper In Education programs fall victim to a backlash by educators and parents?

Some experts warn that despite NlE's squeakyclean reputation, classroom newspaper programs could get caught up in the growing disquiet about marketing that targets children in the classroom. A recent Consumer Reports monograph that was quite critical of corporate sponsorships in schools referred to targeted children as "Captive Kids."

Signs of aggressive classroom targeting abound: Lifetime Learning Systems boasts in marketing trade magazines ads that it can "put custom-made materials" into the hands of teachers and students. The American Potato Board tries to push a mathematics lesson plan that uses potato chips in classroom exercises. A maker of liquid-filled candy has designed a "physics" lesson plan that involves eating the candy and describing the experience "scientifically."

"These are the things that I think are pushing the ethical envelope," said Ed De Roche, an education professor at the University of San Diego, and a staunch NIE proponent.

"What I'm very fearful of is [that] someone is going to crack the whip -- and newspapers will be one of the things that get cracked. I worry about overreaction," DeRoche told a Newspaper Association of America Foundation NIE conference in Chicago earlier this year.

No NIE program was among the dozens of bad examples cited by DeRoche or Consumer Reports. Yet NIE directors are facing this issue at a time when the bottom-line pressure to line up corporate sponsorships has never been heavier.

"In this day and age, the decision to start or expand an NIE program has got to be a good business decision," said Paul Glaeser, circulation manager of the San Francisco Newspaper Agency.

Just last year, the agency created from scratch an NIE program for the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner. One of the first and most worrisome questions, Glaeser said, was how big a role corporate sponsors would play

"Sponsorship? Is it necessary? Probably, in this day and age. Is it addictive? Yes, absolutely. Is it difficult to replicate every year? Yeah. But if it's handled correctly, everybody wins," Glaeser said.

For NIE directors, the worst nightmare is that even without corporate sponsors, the newspaper will get caught up in campaigns against programs that market to children in school. …

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