I have discovered something that I think is pretty valuable -- when reading a newspaper becomes mandatory, some young adults discover they actually enjoy it.
I ditched the traditional textbook in one of my classes at Valencia Community College (Orlando, Fla.) and required the students to subscribe to the Wall Street Journal for the term instead (first lesson learned -- the paper and its Web site were about $70 cheaper).
The course, Survey of Mass Communications, focuses on major media categories -- books, newspapers, magazines, film, radio (including recorded sound and popular music), television, cable and satellite television, the Internet, plus the supporting industries of public relations and advertising.
The Journal has content related to most of those topics every day. I told them that if they devoted two hours a day to reading the Wall Street Journal, they'd learn more, about more things, than they would sitting in college or university classes for four years.
Going into the course, none of the 25 students surveyed read any newspaper daily; seven were exposed to the Orlando Sentinel because it was delivered to their home, but they didn't pay much attention to it.
After the course, 17 of 24 (one student withdrew) said they planned to renew their subscriptions. (The Journal offers a $99 annual rate for students, which includes Web access.)
I hoped for a conversion or two, but 17 seemed remarkable. (Were they just trying to score brownie points in the exit survey?)
Maybe if we used newspapers as teaching tools in middle schools, and high schools, more young people would learn to appreciate their value.
I will make the Wall Street Journal mandatory in all of my classes in the Spring term, not because I'm on a crusade (I am), but because 17 students said they liked reading it daily.