By Shane Green

When Crinkling News, the newspaper for children, recently needed a financial kick-along through crowd funding, the response was swift. Within two weeks, the $200,000 target was reached then exceeded.

What was just as telling was the way the money was raised. ‘We had kids holding bake stalls and lemonade stands and printing flyers for every classroom in their school to help us raise the money we needed,’ says editor Saffron Howden.

That touching grassroots support from the young people of Australia said plenty about how well the newspaper had connected with its audience in its short life of just more than a year. The newspaper’s motto – ‘We tell all the news, without the boring or scary bits’ – has clearly resonated.

Readership has hit more than 40,000, and almost 10 per cent of Australian schools have subscribed. As Ms Howden explains, the venture was very close to being self-sustaining, but needed extra seed funding to get some additional expertise and resources into the business to secure its future.

The good news is that the Crinkling News now has a more secure future.

A happy Crinkling News reader. Photo Crinkling News

A happy young reader of Crinkling News. Image copyright Crinkling News.

The idea for the weekly newspaper took shape while Ms Howden was working for The Sydney Morning Herald with Crinkling News co-founder Remi Bianchi. When they left the Herald at the end of 2015, they set up Crinkling News.

Ms Howden says she was aware for a long time that many countries had newspapers for children and young people – and these were a roaring success. There were successful publications in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, China, Japan, China Norway, Austria and more.

Front page of Crinkling News issue 57. Copyright Crinkling News Pty Ltd 2017 copy

Front page news: the newspaper now has more than 40,000 readers. Image copyright Crinkling News.

‘After all, kids are naturally curious about the world around them and they want to be involved and have a say,’ says Ms Howden.

As someone who had worked as a journalist in newspapers her whole adult life, Ms Howden wanted to create a newspaper for Australian children.

‘In fact, I think it’s more important now than ever,’ says Ms Howden. ‘As young people are bombarded with information from a plethora of sources and on a range of platforms – not all of it reliable – it’s vital they have a high quality news source they can trust.’

Modern children are likely to hear about big news events in one way or another, says Ms Howden. That can be news bulletin flicking across the TV or a headline on a monitor in a building lift, hearing adults talking about it, catching the tail end of the radio news in the car, or coming across it on social media or elsewhere online.

Crinkling News, she says, gives them a safe space to learn about, understand and process that news.

‘We steer clear of graphic details, provide plenty of context and background information, and draw on the experiences of children to help our readers find out what’s going on,’ explains Ms Howden.

‘We also include solutions, focus on the people trying to help, and have an advising child psychologist to help guide our coverage of sensitive topics.’

Head shot of Saffron Howden, founding editor, Crinkling News

Saffron Howden, founding editor, Crinkling News: there’s growing evidence children prefer reading in print. Image copyright Crinkling News.

All stories are written by professional journalists, fact checked and sub-edited, so the information is reliable.

There’s also a big emphasis on getting young people involved, which is no doubt part of the reason behind the loyal readership.

Each week, the newspaper publishes a book, movie or game review submitted by children, and all opinion pieces are written by young people.

There are also opportunities for children to become ‘junior reporters’ – interviewing politicians and community leaders, or covering events.

While Crinkling News has an online platform, it is a newspaper first and foremost, challenging conventional wisdom about the dominance of screens in young lives.

Ms Howden says there’s growing evidence children actually prefer reading in print. Screens are for playing games or social media.

‘While kids are still developing their reading and writing skills, it is also better for them to be reading in print,’ says Ms Howden. ‘There are fewer distractions when you’re reading a printed product and the experience lends itself to contemplation and better absorption of information.’

Parents and teachers also know that it’s safer for young people to be reading a printed newspaper.

There is no danger of Crinkling News readers clicking away to another site and ending up on an unsavoury YouTube channel or viewing other inappropriate content.

There’s also the peace of mind for the adults that the information is factual, child-appropriate, reliable and carefully constructed.

And, of course, reading a printed newspaper is a tactile experience.

‘Our subscribers at home run to their letterboxes each week to get their copy of Crinkling News, which is addressed to them, and they can sit down and spend time with their very own paper,’ says Ms Howden

‘You just can’t replicate that online.’

You can find out more on the Crinkling News site

All images copyright Crinkling News.

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Posted by Independent Schools Victoria