Campaign Notebook

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Cherub Reporters Hit the Campaign Trail

John Kerry may be the front-runner in the Democratic presidential race, but he can't sing "Happy Birthday," his stepson, Chris Heinz, told Scholastic News.

Election 2004

That little-known detail about the man who is widely expected to be his party's standard-bearer against President Bush this year was uncovered by 13-year-old Katelyn LeMay. She is one of the junior reporters on the staff of Scholastic Inc., the New York City- based publisher of classroom newsmagazines.

"He doesn't have a good voice, so that's always funny," Mr. Heinz, 30, told Scholastic News in a recent article.

Few campaign reporters have had success gaining access to the children of the Democratic presidential candidates, but several would-be First Family members have spoken candidly to Scholastic reporters.

Historically, youth reporters have had a way of disarming their subjects during presidential campaigns and even coming up with impressive scoops. In 1976, Children's Express, a now-defunct news service that featured child reporters writing for children, gained legendary status when it scooped the national media on news that Democratic presidential nominee Jimmy Carter had chosen Walter F. Mondale as his running mate.

This campaign season may prove to be no different. Several media outlets for young people are kicking up their political coverage, often deploying kid reporters to campaign events, or to score interviews with the candidates.

Scholastic plans to continue its political coverage through the inauguration next January, said Kyle Good, a company spokeswoman.

Meanwhile, Time for Kids, the classroom version of Time magazine, has done two cover stories on the presidential election, and offers weekly updates on the races, said Martha Pickerill, the managing editor. The magazine's pool of 16 student reporters will cover the races in the states where they live, and they will cover the 2004 political conventions alongside their grownup Time counterparts.

"We are covering it as a news story," Ms. Pickerill said of the race. "They'll be there along the campaign trails, and when candidates drop out. We hope we are keeping kids in touch with the process and how it evolves."

Targeting an even younger audience, Weekly Reader is partnering with ABC News for its campaign coverage. The Stamford, Conn.-based company kicked off its election coverage with cover stories on all of its editions about the three ABC campaign buses that are traveling the country, reporting via satellite and visiting schools. ABC News and Weekly Reader will also conduct surveys to find out what children think of the presidential race.

Meanwhile, Channel One, the daily 12-minute newscast televised in 12,000 secondary schools, has featured election coverage from the campaign trail, along with daily news updates. And for the slightly older crowd, the MTV cable music channel is once again kicking into gear its "Choose or Lose" presidential-campaign coverage, looking at issues that affect young voters.

—Lisa Goldstein

Substitute Teacher

If former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean isn't going to win the Democratic presidential nomination, perhaps he has a future as the next TV science-show host. Think of him as the next-generation Mr. Wizard, or Howard Dean, the Science Guy.

Substitute Teacher: If former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean isn't going to win the Democratic presidential nomination, perhaps he has a future as the next TV science-show host. Think of him as the next- generation Mr. Wizard, or Howard Dean, the Science Guy.

While campaigning in Wisconsin last week, Mr. Dean took the helm in a science class at Longfellow Middle School in LaCrosse. According to several press accounts, the class was studying water samples under microscopes. The former practicing physician explained that drinking water from a freshly flushed toilet would be cleaner than water from the nearby Mississippi River.

"That's disgusting," one student shouted out, according to the Chicago Tribune.

"Now let me remind you of one thing," Mr. Dean told the students on Feb. 10. "Do not say that Howard Dean came to my classroom and advised us to drink water from toilets."

The discussion became even more unpresidential as it veered into the question of the relative health dangers of consuming water waste from humans or dogs.

At another school visit that day, this time at a middle school in Superior, Wis., the Tribune reported that Mr. Dean told an assembly that he overheard this comment as 7th graders filed in to hear his speech: "Well, at least we're not in math class."

—Mark Walsh

Vol. 23, Issue 23, Page 38

Published in Print: February 18, 2004, as Campaign Notebook
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