Financial Crisis? Yes. Story Idea Crisis? No Way!

“Covering financial markets isn’t exactly the reason my students signed up for journalism,” began Paul Kandall, student media adviser at Palo Alto (Calif.) High. But his students might be willing to try “if they could see their way in.”

So Kandall, writing on a listserv of the Journalism Education Association, offered up the first of what he hoped would be a string of ideas on how teens could cover the financial crisis in meaningful ways. What follows is his idea, plus nine more that followed from other listservians:

  • Local pawn shops. Is business up? What are people pawning? How often are they returning to retrieve their stuff? This idea came from a story on NPR. — Paul Kandall, Palo Alto (Calif.) High
  • Car loans.  “Every community has a car dealership — and they probably are not overly busy right now. A good place for students to start asking questions about decreases in sales and in denied loans.” — Jeremy Van Hof, DeWitt (Mich.) High
  • Retail jobs.  “Many students work retail — are they getting fewer hours with the downturn?  Will there be as many seasonal positions this winter?” — Dana Smith, Sehome High, Bellingham, Wash.
  • Property taxes and school budets. How will declining home values affect property taxes and thus school district budgets? — Dana Smith, Sehome High.
  • College costs. What’s the impact on student loans and scholarships? Will interest rates go up on student loans? What if a lender goes bankrupt or gets bought out? And what’s the impact on college savings plans? — Courtney Archer, Elkhorn (Neb.) High, Paul Restivo, St. James Academy, Lenexa, Kan., Noreen Connolly, St. Benedict’s Prep, Newark, N.J.,  and Connie Fulkerson, JEA
  • School lunches. Are more students bringing lunch from home?  Are more students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch?  Ideas for healthy, inexpensive lunches. — Robin Morris, retired newspaper and yearbook adviser, Richland (Wash.) High
  • Cuts at school. Might there be layoffs of school employees, especially support people? Reduction in number of field trips or requiring students to pay for trips? Cuts in school supplies? Change to a four-day school week? — Robin Morris, Richland High
  • School dances. How can costs be lessened for the Homecoming dance or prom? And low-cost date ideas for the dance. — Robin Morris, Richland High
  • Clothes.  Places in your community to shop for lower-cost clothes. Students who make some of their clothes. — Robin Morris, Richland High
  • Foreclosures and job loss. Have families in your town lost homes? Parents lost jobs? — Robin Morris, Richland High, and Noreen Connolly, St. Benedict’s Prep.

“This is not just the story of the year or even the decade, folks. This is bigger,” writes Logan Aimone, executive director of the National Scholastic Press Association, in his listserv post. “Advisers have a responsibility to assist students with this coverage. Students have an obligation to help their readers understand why this matters.”

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