Learning Adventures in Citizenship
Episode 2Topic 1: The Newspaper Age
Get the Word Out
New Yorkers have always been famous for saying what's on their mind -- especially, the city's newspaper publishers. While they covered the news of the growing city, they also wanted to give their opinions on the big issues of their day. Some -- like Benjamin Day of THE SUN -- had a special message: workers deserve a fair day's wage for a fair day's work. Others -- such as Samuel Cornish and John Russworm of the black newspaper FREEDOM'S JOURNAL -- aimed at a special audience.

Do you have something on your mind? Something you want other people to know? Everybody does, but how can you make sure all the people you want to reach hear it or see it or read it?

This activity will help you figure out the best way to get your message across to your target audience.

Pick a Message
The most important step comes first -- deciding what you want to say. Public service messages are a good choice. You've probably seen them in newspapers or on TV. A public service message gives people information that can help them and others: smoking is unhealthy; riding without a bicycle helmet is dangerous; or recycling is good for the environment. (Remember, public service messages are not trying to sell anything. An advertisement selling bicycle helmets is not the same as a public service message that reminds people to wear them.)

Most public service messages tell people to do something (or not do something) within their reach. A message like "clean up the environment" is too big for one person to do. But "recycle cans and bottles" or "don't litter" IS something one person can do.

How to choose your message? Look around you, think of problems you've heard about or seen, and talk to others. There are plenty of public service message ideas if you put your mind to it. Here are some Web sites that might give you ideas:

Environmental issues:

U.S. EPA's Explorers' Club
A Web page for kids put out by the Environmental Protection Agency of the U.S. government.

Ranger Rick's Kid's Zone
This is the National Wildlife Federation's homepage for children.

Earth to Kids
The Environmental Defense Fund has a Web page for young people.

School violence:

Tragedy in Colorado
Using the recent tragedy at Columbine High School in Colorado, this page on the Scholastic Web site explores the issue of school violence.

Keep Schools Safe
The National Association of Attorneys General has a Web site on how to make schools safe from violence.

Political participation:

Kids Voting USA
This is a Web site featuring ideas on how to get children involved in the political process.

NHextra Politics '98
From the same people who brought you the documentary film NEW YORK, a guide to children's participation in elections.

General places to look:

Yahoo's list of Web sites for kids.

Time for Kids
Time for Kids is TIME magazine's Web site for young readers.

GreatKids Network
A Web site about kids around the world making things better.

This is a Web site that includes stories about projects other children are doing.

Choose A Slogan
Choose A Slogan
Slogans are short and catchy phrases. They tell the message in a way that people don't forget. For example, which is easier to remember: the straight message "You should care about your environment and do nothing to make it worse" or the slogan "Give a hoot, don't pollute"?

Get the Message Out
Get the Message Out
A message is not public service unless the public hears or reads or sees it. There are many ways to get the message out to an audience. But first, you have to think about who your audience is. Do you want to reach people at school, in your neighborhood, on the Internet? You have to select the right way to reach them. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Posters (at school or on public bulletin boards)
  • Flyers (mailboxes)
  • Handouts (playground, cafeteria, class, street corner)
  • Telling people in person (one-on-one or in front of class)
  • Publishing (in school or community newspaper)
  • Internet (e-mail or Web site)
Measuring The Response/Publishing The Results
Measuring The Response/Publishing The Results
You might want to know how you did -- how many people saw or read or heard your message. There are different ways to do this:

  • Posters: Take a watch, count the people who pass by during breaks, then multiply by number of breaks, then by number of days poster was up.
  • Flyers and handouts: How many did you hand out?
  • In person: Count the number of people you told.
  • Publishing: Ask the editor or class advisor about the paper's circulation.
  • Internet: How many e-mails did you send? How many hits did your Web site get?
Remember, any effort is a success. Even reaching a few people with an important message is good work.