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At US school newspapers, the ink is drying up

Many newspapers have been reduced to publishing a few times a year because of shrinking staffs and huge budget cuts

world Updated: Jun 07, 2013 01:19 IST
Winnie Hu
Winnie Hu
Hindustan Times

The Clinton News used to be the source for everything that mattered to its readers in the northwest Bronx. It published 10,000 copies every other week in the 1930s and even circulated overseas among Bronx residents fighting in World War II.

It, like newspapers everywhere, has struggled to adapt as print costs soared, and Facebook and Twitter became the media of choice among younger generations.

The difference is that The Clinton News is a high school newspaper, written and read by the students of DeWitt Clinton High School. Now, as it marks its 100th year as one of New York City’s oldest student newspapers, The Clinton News stands as a testament to another ink-and-broadsheet legacy that is rapidly fading.

Fewer than one in eight of the city’s public high schools reported having a newspaper or print journalism class in an informal survey this month by city education officials, who do not officially track the information.

Many of these newspapers have been reduced to publishing a few times a year because of shrinking staffs, budget cuts and a new focus on core academic subjects. Some no longer come out in print at all, existing only as online papers or as scaled-down news blogs.

Nationally, nearly two-thirds of public high schools have newspapers, according to a 2011 media study by the Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University.

But Mark Goodman, a journalism professor who oversaw the study, said a disproportionate number of those without newspapers were urban schools with higher percentages of minority children.

But the decline of these newspapers in recent years is not a loss only for schools, but also for an industry that is fighting for survival.

Students raised on a diet of Internet posts and instant messages may be unlikely to be future newspaper readers.

At the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Brooklyn, “there was no prouder moment” than when the school newspaper came out, said David M De Martini, an assistant principal.

But the paper, The Statement, quietly disappeared this spring after an unsuccessful, multiyear online experiment to replace a printed version that had to be supported partly through bake sales and PTA grants.

Still, many newspaper advisers and journalism scholars caution against writing off student newspapers just yet.

Some schools have brought back their papers after a hiatus. Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn started not one but two newspapers for the first time this year to offer students more opportunity for expression.

First Published: Jun 07, 2013 01:17 IST