Two kids reading a newspaper

By Polly Basore Wenzl

Picture a sandy-haired Dennis the Menace, 11 years old.

He wandered into News Connect, the Wichita Journalism Collaborative’s pop-up newsroom, in the downtown library on a recent day.

Our collaborative – a partnership of 11 local news and community organizations – was on week five of an experiment to see what impact making ourselves easily accessible to the public might have.

“What’s in here?” he asked no one in particular.

“Journalists,” we told him. “We do the news.”

“BORING!” he declared.

He tried to leave, but I waved him back in.

Kansas journalist Polly Basore WenzlWe introduced ourselves and our jobs: A news photographer from The Wichita Eagle, a radio reporter from KMUW, and me, editor of The Wichita Beacon, a nonprofit, online news outlet.

He pointed to us one at a time: “Newspapers are dead! Radio is boring and… I don’t even know what you are.” That last was directed at me.

I was not about to give up. Generation Alpha was in my sightline.

I asked him: “What if we wrote about stuff that mattered to you?” He seemed bored but slightly curious. I continued:

“Journalists are for when something isn’t fair, and you want someone to find out why. Is there anything in your world that isn’t fair?”

He started talking. Nonstop. About how schools don’t give you enough time to eat lunch. About how you don’t get enough time for recess. About how if you stand up to bullies, you get in trouble, too.

“Are you writing this down?” he asked me. He leaned over me to check my notepad. I started writing. He kept talking.

“Are you going to write this story?” he asked.

I explained I couldn’t do that without his name, without him being on the record. He

immediately told me his full name and spelled it.

And before he left, he went over to his mom with one of our promo cards, scanned the QR code on the back with his cell phone, then handed it to his mom, directing her to input her name and email. Another subscriber to our free newsletter.


The news, it seems, is more interesting when you see your world in it, and when journalists are writing about what’s not fair in that world.

Relevance still reigns

Are you writing this down?

In our industry’s frenetic quest to survive, we pretzel ourselves to deliver what we think the reader wants. We often look at the younger generation and believe the answer lies in new “news products” because, we’re told, young people don’t read. They prefer audio and video.

But maybe that misses the point. Maybe the real solution is relevancy, as it’s always been. People, whether kids or adults, want to read about themselves and people they know, and to count on journalists to address what’s unfair.

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Polly Basore Wenzl is editor of the non-profit startup Wichita Beacon in Wichita, Kansas. She formerly was an editor at the Wichita Eagle and worked as a writer for nonprofit and education projects.

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