The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on communities across the globe. No individual, household or industry was unaffected by the pandemic, and the ripple effects of the virus may be felt for years to come.
Though many effects of the pandemic have been devastating, one unforeseen and potentially positive consequence of the spread of COVID-19 was a growing recognition of the invaluable role played by local newspapers. Responses to the virus and strategies regarding how to combat it varied greatly, and local newspapers were a go-to resource for citizens who wanted to learn about rules and regulations in their towns.
For example, in England the Bishop’s Stortford Independent, a local weekly paper in Hertfordshire, experienced a significant monthly web audience growth during the pandemic. Prior to the global outbreak in January 2020, the paper’s monthly web audience was 260,000. By October, that number had spiked to 360,000, reflecting a growing need for local news outlets as readers across the globe sought to learn about the pandemic within their own communities and how local officials were responding to the threat posed by COVID-19.
If the pandemic illustrated the vital role local newspapers can play, it’s important that readers recognize that role won’t be any less valuable when COVID-19 is in the world’s rearview mirror. Educators can help the next generation of readers recognize the importance of local newspapers by taking various steps to incorporate newspapers into their lessons.
- Employ newspapers when teaching current events. Everyone was directly affected by the COVID-19 virus, making the story of the pandemic one of the most unique in modern history. Though children are often sheltered from global news stories about conflicts or economic crises, no such sheltering was possible during the pandemic, as kids were forced to learn from home and confront life with little or no access to extracurricular activities. Educators can show how local newspapers reported on the pandemic when teaching current events, using that example as the foundation for teaching current events in the future.
- Utilize the newspapers when teaching ESL. Students who do not speak English at home or as their primary language can benefit greatly from their local newspapers. It might be easy to learn how to say certain words in English, but reading them in a newspaper gives ESL students a chance to see the words they’ve learned in context. And because local newspapers feature sections on everything from news to sports to entertainment, ESL students are sure to find a few articles that appeal to their existing interests.
- Use newspapers to encourage a love of reading. Just like ESL students are bound to find something that interests them in the local newspapers, their English-speaking classmates are sure to find a recap of their favorite team’s most recent game or a review of the latest superhero movie or a local news story about their town to pique their interest. Students may not realize it, but they’re learning when reading such stories by developing their vocabularies, fine tuning their comprehension skills and catching up on current events.
The valuable role played by local newspapers was on display during the pandemic. That role won’t be any less valuable in a post-pandemic world, and it’s a lesson teachers can apply in their classrooms.