Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Kids Report on the Real World the Indianapolis Bureau of Children's Express Tackles Hard-Hitting Stories on Drugs and Crime

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Kids Report on the Real World the Indianapolis Bureau of Children's Express Tackles Hard-Hitting Stories on Drugs and Crime

Article excerpt

WHEN the Indianapolis Star decided to devote one page a week to stories by children and teens, some expected to see a bouncy page with puzzles and cartoons.

But what went to press was a bit heavier: articles on gangs, teen pregnancy, children of alcoholics, drugs, and interviews with such notables as Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Supreme Court Justice William Brennan.

The Indianapolis bureau of Children's Express (CE) has a nose for hard news. Housed here at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, the bureau is unique in that its young staff publishes an entire page in a major newspaper. The page appears every Monday in the Indianapolis Star, the most widely circulated newspaper in Indiana.

The bureau is an extension of Children's Express, a news organization of young people aged 9 to 18. Founded in 1975 by Bob Clampitt, Children's Express gives kids the opportunity to have a voice and gain critical skills through print journalism. (CE has bureaus in Melbourne, Australia; Wellington, New Zealand; San Francisco; Boston; Atlanta; and Harlem, with headquarters in New York City. Indianapolis is one of the newer bureaus, founded in 1990.)

"This is really our national model now," Mr. Clampitt says about the Indianapolis bureau. It's captured the attention of other major-city newspapers interested in replicating the bureau, such as the Philadelphia Inquirer, Raleigh's News & Observer, and Louisville's Courier-Journal, he adds.

Some 180 kids have gone through training, though the active staff numbers around 120. Usually, those aged 9 to 13 serve as reporters, and those aged 14 to 18 serve as editors. For the most part, the CE page is "pretty well-accepted," says Suzanne Preston, assistant director here. Once and a while a story will raise some eyebrows, such as one that focused on teenage homosexuality. "We got a lot of negative response, but some positive too," Preston recalls. Story ideas are kid-generated, she points out. "The hardest thing for people to accept is that kids are dealing with these things.... We've done a lot of really serious stories."

Sometimes being a kid can bring a unique perspective or allow for greater access to a story, Ms. …

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