The owners of the DeSoto Times newspaper, whose son was a classmate of mine, delivered papers to our class every Thursday as part of a newspaper in education program focusing the exploration of Hernando DeSoto, a Spanish conquistador who led an expedition into the Southeastern part of the United States including Mississippi. DeSoto is said to be the first man to have crossed the Mississippi River, just south of Memphis, in the aptly-named DeSoto County.
Each week, the paper published a page on the earliest history of northwest Mississippi, and Mrs. Terry used the information as part of our social studies lessons.
I loved seeing that bundle of newspapers come on Thursday – perfectly crisp right off the press. As soon as that paper hit my hot little hands, I was flipping to my favorite column, “The Eudora Newsline” by Mrs. Margurite Earnheart. A friend of my grandmother’s, Mrs. Earnheart reported all the happenings in my hometown of Eudora, and frequently, my grandparents and my home church, Eudora Presbyterian, were the subjects of the weekly column.
As silly as it sounds, I felt like a real celebrity on those occasions when my name was included in the “Newsline.” Usually, Mrs. Earnheart mentioned that I had joined my grandparents for breakfast the previous Saturday morning or that I attended our annual Easter egg hunt. Still, I felt like I was something really special, and I just loved to show my friends that my name had been printed in the newspaper.
My parents were avid newspaper readers and subscribed to two of our county’s weekly papers, including the DeSoto Times, and the Commercial Appeal, Memphis’ metro daily newspaper. The Southaven Press, of which I would later become editor, was delivered free each Wednesday.
Since the time I could read, I have been a newspaper reader, but there was something about getting that paper at school. There was something about getting “the scoop” before even my father read it that evening. Honestly, that newspaper in education program is probably what led me to a career in journalism. It definitely nurtured my love of reading.
Several years ago, the newspaper staff set a goal to launch a newspaper in education program in Carroll and Montgomery Counties. We were seeking a strong literacy curriculum for the program, and by joining with the Newspapers in Education Institute, we discovered a wonderful curriculum that will build the reading skills of local students as well as give them insight on how our government works.
Starting with today’s edition, The Winona Times in Montgomery County and The Conservative in Carroll County will be delivered to every fourth grade student to be used in the classroom.
This program would not be possible without the amazing leadership at our local schools – public and private – and the commitment to education and our local youth by the Bank of Winona, our community partner in newspaper in education.
I can only hope the students will enjoy the newspaper in education experience as much as I did at their age. It most definitely left an impact on my life.
In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”