January 29, 2007 / 6:53 AM / 11 years ago

Newspapers lose ground in Web-savvy schools: study

NEW YORK (Reuters) - More U.S. teachers are using national and international online news sites in the classroom, leaving behind newspapers that fail to grasp the Internet’s importance in trying to reach students, a study found.

Newspaper boxes in downtown Detroit in a file photo. More teachers are using national and international online news sites in the classroom, leaving behind newspapers that fail to grasp the Internet's importance in trying to reach students, a study found. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook

Fifty-seven percent of teachers use Internet-based news in the classroom with some frequency, said the study, which was based on a survey of 1,262 teachers in grades 5 through 12 in the fall of 2006, and released on Monday by the Carnegie-Knight Task Force on the Future of Journalism Education.

That compares with 31 percent for national television news, and 28 percent for daily papers. Local television news, at 13 percent, was at the bottom of the list, the study found.

“Students do not relate to newspapers at all, any more than they would to vinyl records,” one teacher said in the study.

The findings reflect a wider trend in the United States of falling circulation and advertising revenue at many daily papers as people go online for news and entertainment.

The trend has led to worries about the future of news and the financial future of the companies that traffic in it. Tribune Co., for example has been pressed into weighing bids to sell itself to appease disgruntled shareholders.

The most popular sites are run by large news organizations like the British Broadcasting Corp., The New York Times and CNN.com, the study found said.

Teachers prefer printed papers, but only 8 percent said the newspaper was a student’s preferred choice. Seventy-five percent placed it at the bottom of the student list.

One of the main reasons local newspaper Web sites have not gained a foothold in U.S. classrooms is their failure to promote their use in the classroom, the study found.

Many daily U.S. newspapers participate in a program called Newspapers in Education (NIE), which makes papers available at discounted rates for schools or for free.

Eighty-seven percent of NIE directors at local papers said their paper encourages teachers to use the print edition, according to a survey of 253 directors in the fall of 2006.

Less than 2 percent said they steer teachers to the online version, the study found.

Local papers “haven’t recognized how quickly this transition is taking place,” said the study’s author, Thomas Patterson, a professor at the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

A shaky future for local news also could further erode its contribution to U.S. democracy, the study found.

“A news habit is one of the best predictors of whether people are going to be involved in their community; whether they’re going to vote, whether they’re going to care,” Patterson said.

“If you have a news habit, that interest gets renewed every day. Once people start to move out of that arena, most of them never come back in,” he added.

Some newspapers are moving slowly, said Jim Abbott, vice president of the Newspaper Association of America Foundation, which coordinates the Newspapers in Education project.

“Are they all getting on board as fast as they might? No. Some will move faster than others,” he said.

One of the NIE’s goals, Abbott said, is to “create a generation of news junkies” who will always have a thirst for information.

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