English majors Katherine Pittser and Zack Smith, presented their senior capstone projects Tuesday evening (Nov. 2) in the first program of the 2010-11 Tusculum College Humanities Series.
Pittser, a resident of Cosby, presented “Newspapers: A Dying Era?” that examined reasons why newspapers are in a period of decline. Smith, a native of Granville, Ohio, presented “Stimulus Money and the Local School System” that detailed how federal “Race to the Top” funds are being used in the Greeneville and Greene County school systems.
In her presentation, Pittser presented current scholarship about the decline of the newspaper industry. Print media has been affected by technology as members of Generation Y chose to get their news from the Internet rather than a printed newspaper, as past generations have, she noted, and this decline of readership has led to less advertising revenue making it hard for newspapers to financially survive.
Two major reasons for the downfall of print media are the corporate purchase of smaller newspapers by larger newspapers to eliminate competition and journalism schools failing to adequately prepare future journalists for Internet newspapers and magazines based on citizen journalism, Pittser said.
A staff writer at the Newport Plain Talk who is also responsible for the editorial content and design of a publication aimed at tourists visiting Cocke County, Pittser pulled from her own experiences to explain the effect of the control of smaller newspapers by larger ones. She noted that as smaller newspapers are purchased by larger entities, the control of these papers is often far from the communities served by the newspapers. Providing local news is a key in the survival of newspapers, Pittser noted, as individuals discover that the newspaper is the best source of community news.
Some universities have closed their journalism schools, she said, seeing the profession as declining. However, Pittser argued, journalists will continue to be needed to provide the basic, objective reporting that will be essential by the online publications of the future.
Smith, who is the editor-in-chief of the Pioneer Frontier student newspaper, explained that his capstone project combined his interest in economics and writing. Smith detailed how the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 provided $100 billion in funds to improve education for children of all socio-economic backgrounds and how the funds provided to the local school systems have been used.
In distributing the funds, the federal government used existing programs to provide the funds to school systems as well as distributing some of the funds in a competitive manner through the “Race to the Top” program. Funds were provided through the existing Title I program, which serves low-income students, and two parts of the existing IDEA program, one of which provides direct services to children with disabilities and the other provides services to their families. Formulas are used to determine how much school systems receive of these funds, Smith explained.
Tennessee was one of two states selected to receive the first round of funding in the competitive “Race to the Top” program. “First to the Top” is the state’s plan to invest the $500 million grant received through “Race to the Top.” The state plan focuses on improving student performance in five areas: adopting higher standards and assessments to prepare students to succeed in college or the workplace; building systems that use data to measure student growth and success in a way that helps teachers and principals improve instruction in the classroom; finding, retaining and rewarding the most effective teachers and principals; turning around the lowest-performing schools; and creating a unified strategy to strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.
In Greene County, funds will be used to provide professional development to teachers in the reading program and provide resources to strengthen science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs, Smith noted. The Greeneville School System will be using funds to provide additional resources to its English as a Second Language program. Both school systems will be using funds to improve technology infrastructure and resources. Smith noted that the school systems are being careful in how they are allocating the funds to not cause future budgetary issue since the stimulus money will not be a long-term allocation.