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ProJo squashes kids' spelling-bee

As the ProJo Turns
By IAN DONNIS  |  January 17, 2007

Newspapers need all the help they can get these days, so the Providence Journal’s withdrawal of sponsorship for the Rhode Island Statewide Spelling Bee -- resulting in the cancellation of this year’s competition -- has angered ProJo staffers.

The Journal’s decision to no longer serve as the event’s main sponsor was communicated in a letter sent just before Christmas time to the Rhode Island Association of School Principals, which helps to coordinate the bee. “Unfortunately, it won’t happen this year as a result,” says John Golden, the association’s executive director.

Golden finds no fault with the paper’s decision. “The Providence Journal has been very generous for a long time,” he says. Being the lead sponsor for the bee, which was scheduled for March, “is expensive and it eats up a lot of staff time,” particularly in the ProJo’s promotions department. Golden, who was unable to identify the precise cost of lead sponsorship, places it at “something in excess of $5000.” Because of the cancellation, schools have been encouraged to conduct their own local spelling bees.

A number of ProJo staffers are angry and flabbergasted by the newspaper’s withdrawal of sponsorship, which has gone unreported in Rhode Island’s newspaper of record.

“This is just incomprehensible,” says reporter John Hill, president of the Providence Newspaper Guild. “I don’t see how you could have an event that is more connected to a newspaper’s mission, which is reading, and learning about the world, and expanding your vocabulary. These are things that you need to learn if you’re going to be a newspaper reader or a Web site reader.”

Past winners of the Rhode Island Statewide Spelling Bee have progressed to the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC.

Hill recalls having covered a packed Rhode Island spelling bee last year in which study guides provided by the ProJo were a ubiquitous sight. “To throw that away, I’m completely baffled by it,” he says. “It just betrays a tone deafness to what the Journal’s role in the community ought to be, and we are diminishing that role.”

Last year, the newspaper’s parent, the Dallas-based Belo Corporation, considered the Journal’s support for the spelling bee important enough to trumpet it in a news release on the corporate Web site. Now, though, the decision is thought to be part of another cost-cutting effort at Rhode Island’s largest newspaper. Barbara Nauman, the Journal’s director of promotions, didn’t return a message seeking comment.

“In terms of the spelling bee, newsroom people are very upset,” says a source. “They see a direct connection between literacy, the ability to use the English language, and promoting interest in reading and in reading newspapers.”

Paige Kimble, director of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, says she was not aware of another newspaper that has withdrawn its sponsorship of a statewide spelling bee because of cost concerns. With participation from 275 kids last year, 286 are expected for this year’s competition. “I think it’s a tribute to the popularity of the program and the relatively low cost,” she says.

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ProJo squashes kids' spelling-bee
It's a sad day when the ProJo declines to continue its long sponsorship of the annual state-wide spelling bee. I have served as a judge for the bee along with Carol Young of the ProJo for many years and am puzzled by the Belo Management's move in this case. Why doesn't someone here in R.I. stand up to the Dallas bosses who have made an obviously shortsighted cost-cutting move? Can the savings really be that much? Further, why hasn't another media outlet jumped at the chance to continue this worthy effort? Hello...Phoenix...are you listening? How about you Channel 10? Even a group like the NEA-Rhode Island would be a prime candidate to take over the reins and restore this tradition back to its place of honor. I'm still willing to serve as a judge, as always, if only some organization can rescue the spelling bee from extinction. Let's do you spell R.E.S.U.S.C.I.T.A.T.I.O.N...!
By Ryles1001 on 01/17/2007 at 8:52:56
ProJo squashes kids' spelling-bee
I was livid when i got saw this news! My son placed 1st in his 8th grade class in his school spelling bee. He will be competing at the Citywide level next week. This is his final year to compete and he is being robbed of a potential opportunity of his lifetime--to compete at the Sripps Nationl Spelling Bee. Our family have spent much time, energy, and money preparing for this event. Therefore, I do not understand how a corporation can say that $5000 can be worth denying hundreds of bright students this opportunity. Isn't educating our youth a priority any longer? This can only have a negative effect on our youngest students. I am highly dissappointed in the Projo & the state of Rhode Island. It will be a extraordinary embarassment to be the only State to not have a representative at that this Nationally televised event. In addition, I do not think that the Projo understands how much popularity Spelling Bee's have gained through movies and musicals of late. I have been contemplating, as many others have--in seeing the "For Sale" signs in my neighborhood--relocating from this area and this is the nail in the coffin as far as I am concerned. I believe my soon to be High school age son and pre-school daughter will have much greater educational opportunities in any other state in the Country besides Rhode Island.
By DEM on 01/18/2007 at 10:28:10
ProJo squashes kids' spelling-bee
Well, the statewide bee HAS been saved, thanks to The Valley Breeze newspaper of northern Rhode Island, who signed on as official sponsor earlier this week. Yes, Rhode Island will be represented at the national level. Visit for details!
By authorhall on 01/18/2007 at 9:12:50
ProJo squashes kids' spelling-bee
What a bunch of whiners in RI. Obviously it would be just swell if the ProJo spent its own money all the time, but they finally decided to let somebody else spend their own. Instead, the people of RI just whine that somebody ELSE should spend the money, instead of just offering to spend their own. Obviously, RI doesn't deserve a spelling bee. Stop whining and just donate the money to keep the thing going. Pathetic.
By Disgusted in CT on 01/21/2007 at 7:14:00
ProJo squashes kids' spelling-bee
In response to Disgusted in CT: I must respond to your Ignorance in pointing out the RULES regarding sponsorship of the Spelling Bee. This excerpt is from the Sripps Web Page. "If a community desires participation and its local newspaper cannot assume sponsorship, special consideration for sponsorship may be given to a high-visibility organization or business within that community. Such businesses or organizations must demonstrate a history of promoting academic achievement in their communities." I am sure there is not one RI parent that would not pay the money for their individual child to participate in the Bee if it were allowed! Please save your "Pathetic" comments for when you actually know what you are talking about!
By DEM on 01/23/2007 at 3:10:30

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