In the best tradition of journalism, the headline is sensational: "Lewis-Palmer High School Newspaper in Serious Debt," announces a posting on Colorado Springs' craigslist.org site.
"We are attempting to raise money in order to be able to print our next three issues, so we are doing a fundraiser," the post explains. "We are selling rewards cards."
Mhari Doyle, a Lewis-Palmer English teacher and adviser to the school paper, chuckles over the posting and the "serious debt" remark; "short on cash" might be more accurate. She says the author, Tim Pate, has been more entrepreneurial than his 15 colleagues. He's sold nearly 30 of the $15 cards already. But his post reflects a grim reality facing the Ranger Review.
"It has been nearly impossible to sell ads in this economy," Doyle says.
The Review starts each year with $1,500 from District 38. But students try to put out eight papers through the school year, and each costs more than $800. Ad revenues usually make up the difference. With businesses not buying, though, students are selling 400 cards, retaining $10 from each card sold, to keep the paper in the black.
"This doesn't have anything to do with journalism," Doyle adds sadly.
The Review has good company. Denver's Rocky Mountain News might soon close its doors. The Gazette and papers nationwide have cut pages, along with many staffers who helped fill them. Still, all this doesn't translate to declining journalism interest in classrooms, says Logan Aimone, executive director at the National Scholastic Press Association.
"It's the business model [at newspapers] that's failing," says Aimone, whose organization serves students from middle school through college. "The idea that people want news is not going away."
But the changing economic reality, which also impacts school budgets, is affecting institutions like Lewis-Palmer, Aimone says. To save money, he says, some schools now publish exclusively online.
Student editors at Lewis-Palmer don't see that as an option.
"No one would look at it," says senior Jamie Corder. "We actually have to put it in people's hands."