My 1-year-old daughter loves pretty much everything — her mom, her dad, her brother and sister, her fluffy blankies, peanut butter, grapes and Moana. She’s also into a couple of PBS Kids shows — the new series called “Molly of Denali” and “Sesame Street.”
I’ve always liked PBS Kids, because the shows are truly educational. They are not cartoons where characters bonk each other on the heads all episode and the sound effects are interchangeable. No, instead they teach — simple items like the ABCs and 123s, and for the more advanced children, they can teach how to troubleshoot problems and understand the diversity of the world around them.
One particular episode of “Sesame Street” tugged at my heartstrings: Season 49, episode 3, “Hey! Sesame Street News.”
Beloved Ernie opens the episode by telling Bert about what newspapers are. “A newspaper is a great way to find out about what’s happening all over the world.”
The episode gets deeper. After Hooper’s store worker Chris explains newspapers to Abby Cadabby and Big Bird, Abby asks Chris to “read us a story about something that happened right here on Sesame Street.” Except that Sesame Street doesn’t have its own newspaper. So Big Bird and Abby create their own newspaper out of crayons called Hey! Sesame Street News.
Needing a journalist, they recruit Cookie Monster. At first, Cookie has high demands, “salary, and benefits, and time off. Oh, and retirement package.” Abby counteroffers with the promise of a cookie, and Cookie Monster happily agrees to the terms. I can relate to Cookie Monster. He then vanishes off the screen for exactly 2/10ths of a second before returning. “Me, journalist! Me got all the journalist tools: The pencil and the paper.” I now relate even more to Cookie Monster.
The episode goes on with a song and dance routine teaching about the five Ws: Who, What, Where, When and Why.
Cookie Monster’s story builds from Chris losing a belt buckle. They later find the belt buckle and scream “Stop the presses!” in order to update the story.
I envy the breaking news scene on Sesame Street.
The Elmo’s World portion of the show also dives into the newspaper world briefly, and special guest comedian Keegan-Michael Key has his own segment as a newsstand salesman. “You did it, Keegan. You got a job selling newspapers!” he excitedly says to himself behind the counter.
As if teaching kids about newspapers didn’t do enough already to me emotionally, the show digs deeper. One muppet after another comes to the stand wanting information. “Here’s a headline for ya, ‘Reading the newspaper is awesome,’” Key proclaims.
First, a customer asks about who won the big game. “They have sports in here?” Keegan asks aloud, before seeing that, yes, local sports are listed. “Sports section is a home run! People should really buy newspapers; they don’t know what they’re missing.”
I feel you, Keegan.
Cookie Monster shows up and wants to see the cookie recipe in the food section.
“Nope, there is not one cookie recipe in this paper. There’s two — snickerdoodle and chocolate chip! Cooking section bringing the flavor!”
We too have been putting recipes in our paper for over a year, and just recently started publishing recipes from local readers. We are really hoping the small, weekly feature (today on page B8) becomes something of a hit.
Back on Sesame Street, Elmo walks up next, “One newspaper, please! Elmo’s daddy likes to do the crossword puzzle!” Like Sesame Street’s local paper, we here at the Times also run crossword puzzles.
“What’s an eight-letter word for unaware? I’m clueless,” says a baffled Keegan. “This newspaper really has everything. I can’t believe no one is buying one.” Everyone in the crowd begs louder for a paper.
Abby walks up at this point, “My mommy loves the opinion section.” We have weekly columnists on our Views page, plus letters to the editor. My favorite bit about our opinion section is unlike the comments under a shoddy Facebook meme that’s usually passing along incorrect information as is, our writers touch on local issues, national issues and discuss what’s buzzing for upcoming festivals and projects.
The episode tugs at my heartstrings because it is relatable, funny, and light, and children can understand it a little more. It’s also blatantly simple as to the value a local paper can hold. While the national news is getting attacked day in and out from our president and his ilk, local news around the country is dying as well. Small newspapers are closing up shop. Subscriptions around the country are down, advertising is down, and many people want to get their news for free. While I understand it, here’s the thing, those of us in the industry can’t work for free. We need to put food on the table and roofs over the heads of our children.
We cover school boards and city council meetings to inform the public of what’s going on with our elected officials, because journalists have long been considered a necessity of the Republic. We cover sports to shine light on our youth gaining valuable lessons on life and work habit, because those life lessons far exceed any sort of natural athletic ability. We list community items, fundraisers and blood drives, so our readers know where in the community their help might be needed. We publish features to shed light on a plethora of issues — from local families dealing with heartbreak, to neighbors who persevere, and our op-eds and letters to the editor allow our readers to have a published voice that cannot be flagged or deleted off of Facebook.
News, sports, views, features and community content. The characters of Sesame Street only recently got what they wanted — a local newspaper. The residents of Monroe have had it for 120 years.
Keegan says it best at the end, “I’ve got an opinion for you: This is a real page turner.”
— Adam Krebs is a reporter for the Times and four years ago this weekend enjoyed the beer garden on the Sesame Street campus watching the NLCS. Related: There are 118 days until Pitchers and Catchers report to Spring Training. Adam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.