The Sparks Tribune signed up 30 new subscribers in a single transaction last week. No sales pitch was required. They were eager to get the newspaper, and all of them expressed that eagerness in handwritten letters addressed to me.
Delivering the Tribune every Tuesday will be a breeze because they share the same address: 3570 Waterfall Dr.
Yup, that would be the address of Jerry Whitehead Elementary School in Sparks.
When energetic fifth-graders, supported by a creative teacher who’s a big fan of writing, newspapers and all kinds of reading, tell you they want the paper, you don’t mess around.
So I grabbed a bundle of that week’s papers and headed to the school for an 11 a.m. delivery, thinking to myself that the Tribune just scored a victory over smartphones and all the social media that has transfixed the youth of today. These students are going to learn by reading an actual printed newspaper. Take that, Facebook and Twitter.
The students knew how to be persuasive from a business sense, realizing that I would need something in return for the newspapers. So they mentioned that in addition to using the newspaper for educational purposes, they would spread the word about the Sparks Tribune, creating additional subscribers among family and friends. An excellent reason to not mess around and get to the school right away.
When I entered the classroom of teacher Mark Midcalf, I felt like a conquering hero, armed with a bundle of newspapers and the power of information.
The students and Mr. Midcalf immediately gave me the floor and applauded when they learned they each were going to get their very own copy of the Sparks Tribune every Tuesday. Part of the applause, I’m sure, came from the students’ awareness that their letter-writing campaign had succeeded. We were joined by the principal, Kelly Dominguez.
The fifth-graders proceeded to ask questions about the newspaper business, including several inquiries that were sure to elicit a memorable quote from the interviewee.
I was asked about writing. “It’s hard, real hard.” That got Mr. Midcalf’s attention, who seemed pleased that someone with experience would acknowledge that writing takes a lot of concentration and effort.
I was asked if I ever have trouble coming up with ideas. “All the time.” In fact, I was having that problem that day, and the visit to the school was just what I needed to recharge my brain.
The questions kept coming, and it was a pleasure, not to mention a rare opportunity, to talk to an audience that genuinely seemed interested in what I had to say.
We posed for photos taken by the principal, and then the students lined up for lunch after thanking me. A couple of them even gave me a high-five (I like this conquering-hero thing.)
Welcome to the Sparks Tribune family, Jerry Whitehead Elementary fifth-graders. You’ve instantly become my favorite readers.