The first newspaper we regularly read—-and probably the first newspaper that many consumers of these words read—is about to die. Deaths of newspapers have become so routine in the last two decades or so that the only headlines their passing seem to make are the headlines in their own last editions. But this one is different.
This one is Weekly Reader.
It was My Weekly Reader when the first issue landed on my desk, probably on a Friday afternoon, four pages, tabloid size, with stories written at various grade levels for readers. It was a newspaper for kids of all ages long before the state and national press associations launched their Newspapers in the Classrooms programs.
The first edition of My Weekly Reader was published September 21, 1928. The first issue had articles about the presidential candidates that year, Al Smith and Herbert Hoover. By the time I read my first edition of My Weekly Reader about 4.3 million other kids were reading one of several editions.
It went through several owners. Once it was even owned by the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company! It was owned by the Reader’s Digest Association for several years until it was sold to Scholastic Corporation last February. By then, readership had declined from a peak of 13,000,000 to about 600,000.
Scholastic publishes a competitor, Scholastic News. And now the inevitable has happened. Scholastic News will add some of the Weekly Reader staff and get rid of the rest—and get rid of Weekly Reader.
Bloomberg News says only five Weekly Reader employees who now work in White Plains, NY, the home town of the Missourinet’s newest reporter, will move to Scholastic News. A Scholastic spokesman has told Bloomberg that combining the two publications will produce “A better news and information experience in print and digital formats for teachers and students.”
So now the first newspaper for many of us disappears into the massive corporation that published the Harry Potter and the Hunger Games books after gently introducing millions of people to the world of news.
Once the Capitol press corps was made up of publications like the St. Louis Star, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat, the Kansas City Times, the Kansas City Journal and the St. Louis Republic. In its way, My Weekly Reader served a constituency as well as they did—and as well as the Joplin American, the Columbia Herald, the Sedalia Bazoo, the Cole County Democrat and other vanished newspapers served theirs.
There was also a Catholic version of the Weekly Reader, but I cannot remember the title. Nontheless, couldn’t wait till Friday afternoon for both of them. Had to get a part time job to pay for them in the 4th grade.