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Newspaper and vocational training in Hessen – news to use”: Exploring how the reading of newspapers educates young people

News to use LogoA regular reading of newspapers has educative effects. This is a well-known commonplace. But how large is the influence of a daily reading of newspapers on young people in vocational training really? This was the question addressed by the project “Zeitung und Ausbildung in Hessen – News to use” (“Newspaper and vocational training in Hessen – News to use”). Initiated by the Association of Hessian Newspaper Publishers (Verband Hessischer Zeitungsverleger e.V.), media-pedagogically accompanied by PROMEDIA and scientifically supported by the ZMI, the official press conference of the project took place in the Hessian State Chancellery on 23 April 2012. The project stood under the patronage of the Prime Minister of Hessen, Volker Bouffier. Nearly 40 newspaper titles participated in the project. From 1 September 2012 they have supplied about 2,000 trainees with their local newspaper for a year.

In addition to the daily reading of newspapers, the trainees have worked on ten task blocks touching on current news issues. – During the entire period of the project, the trainees solved these tests on a specially designed Internet portal. The before-mentioned task blocks consisted of nine multiple- or single-choice questions and a free-text question each. As part of the free-text question the trainees wrote their own proper texts – partly abstracts, partly personal valuations or opinions on current news topics. In this way, not only the reading skills, but also the writing skills of the project participants were trained in the long term.

In order to determine the effects on the participants’ general education level, the ZMI carried out a qualified evaluation of their knowledge and skills before and after the project. Furthermore, the ZMI identified the respective improvement of the trainees’ education in the fields of politics, economy and culture over the entire duration of the project.

An expected project result was that a significant increase in general education and language competence of participants was identified. Once more, this would clearly highlight the relevance of daily newspapers – in contrast to other news sources. The analysis, thus, allowed detailed statements regarding the benefits and user conduct of newspapers by young people in vocational training. The results of the comprehensive study are particularly interesting not only for scientists but for entrepreneurs as well. Based on the study, the participating companies will be able to analyze the detected and documented increase in competency of their trainees. Thus, the project is expected to show that and how the daily reading of newspapers can further qualify trainees for their professional careers, too: “For all of us, general education is only a means to an end. You must be able to use it in conversations, for reading and writing texts. This happens on several levels – and a qualification at these levels, ranging from reading comprehension to understanding complex discussions at work, should be the goal,” said Prof. Dr. Henning Lobin in an interview with the “Wiesbadener Tagblatt”.
And exactly in this respect, there is a lot left to catch up with. Unfortunately, the daily reading of newspapers has become an essential part of everyday life in fewer and fewer households – with far-reaching consequences for the general education of the population: “Despite all the euphoria about technological progress, the Internet and the development of the media one must not forget that – especially in today's information and knowledge society – the daily newspaper is still the main medium for information purposes. The reading performance of pupils is, as shown by many studies, suboptimal. (...) Young people in vocational training show weaknesses in dealing with texts and their interpretation, too. The reading performance, however, represents a fundamental cultural technique mandatory for entering into an apprenticeship or a profession. It also is important to participate in social life.”

Therefore, it was one of the declared long-term goals of “News to use” to acquaint trainees with the daily reading of newspapers and to improve their career prospects at the same time. It is assumed that this also increased their awareness of and interest in the complexity of social and political contexts. This had a positive impact on their commitment to their own life and job situation.

Tasks to be performed by the ZMI

  • Collecting personal data regarding social demographics, media usage, writing and reading skills and motivation
  • Development of knowledge and skills tests for the identification of the educational background before and after the project
  • Establishment of a control group
  • Implementation and evaluation of the knowledge and skills tests and the accompanying scientific evaluation of the regular task blocks
  • Presentation of scientific results
  • Transcription and publication of the scientific project results as a final report


Further cooperation partners

About 40 newspaper titles were involved in the project due to the participation of the Association of Hessian Newspaper Publishers (Verband Hessischer Zeitungsverleger e.V.). The association supplied approximately 2,000 trainees of all professions in their first to the third training year with newspapers. The project was coordinated by the media-pedagogical agency PROMEDIA. In addition, PROMEDIA accompanied the project in matters of media education and design and evaluated the task blocks for the trainees. The Forum for Information Security GmbH (Forum Gesellschaft für Informationssicherheit mbH) was responsible for all aspects of information technology and security. The scientific support was funded by the Hessian Ministry for Economics, Transport and Regional Development as well as the European Social Fund.