A professor at the College of Coastal Georgia is encouraging students to read more newspapers, one Introduction to American Government class at a time.
Ernest Hammond, a part-time political science instructor at the college, pushes his students to be involved in the governing process by requiring them to write letters to the editor to The Brunswick News, as well as to write to their local, state and national political representatives and to attend county commission meetings.
The assignment, called a political participation project, counts for a large part of the students' grades.
"It's a way that I try to get them to get involved in the political process, rather than to just take it from the textbook," Hammond said.
The students also complete media observation assignments, in which they watch three different news networks — Fox, MSNBC and PBS — and note how the different outlets report the news.
"I have them read newspapers too, and we talk about how the news is reported, with the bias from the various stations. Because if you read certain publications, some are pro-Democrat and others are pro-Republican, particularly in electronic media," he said. "It's just my way of trying to get them to do more than take a test and write a paper."
Mariah Dominey, a rising freshman at the college who took Hammond's class, said she enjoyed having the chance to write about and defend her own opinions.
The project also improved her writing skills, she said.
"I love to write and I love to tell people my opinion," Dominey said. "I also like to the hear criticism."
Many don't understand how government works on a local level, Hammond said. But newspapers can be a tool to educate students on their local government.
"Hopefully (the students) will become better citizens and better understand how the process works," he said.
Hammond has been reading The Brunswick News every morning for years, he said, but he's found that many students do not read newspapers anymore.
"I encourage them to read newspapers, hard copy and online, and it's surprising how few even students in college read a newspaper," he said. "I've been reading one all my life. Between four and 5 a.m., I wake up and The Brunswick News is sitting right out there. And I read it with my morning coffee."
Hammond has his students write letters to the editor on various national and local topics, including beach restoration, gun control and the Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements.
"I was shocked over the years at how many students had never written a letter to the editor. They've never written any politically-elected figure or bureaucrat in the various levels of government about public policy," he said.
And with this year's emotionally charged presidential campaign, he said following and understanding politics is growing increasingly crucial.
"It's something that's relatively easy to do, and it's something that's important later on in life, to make them better citizens and more aware of the political process," he said.
To find out more about the Newspapers in Education program, contact the Circulation Department at 265-8320 ext. 360.
Teachers interested in sharing their story of how they use newspapers in the classroom can email education reporter Lauren McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.