Broadcast on COAST TO COAST: May 6, 2004
AA: I'm Avi Arditti, and this week on Wordmaster -- English made easy. There's a newspaper in California called Easy English Times. It's written for English learners, and it started in 1996. I met the publisher, Betty Malmgren, and the editor, Lorraine Ruston, at the TESOL English teachers convention in California last month.
They were surprised that I'd heard of their small paper. They were even more surprised that someone mailed a copy to the VOA Special English office several years ago. The two women thought surely I was thinking of the fancier "News for You" newspaper featured at a booth nearby.
No, I wanted to talk to them about their newspaper, starting with Betty Malmgren.
MALMGREN: "Easy English Times was really started on a kitchen table in Napa as means to produce information for people studying English as a second language and adult literacy projects. We wanted to do a newspaper format so that people could start with reading Easy English Times, and then graduate on to a real newspaper."
AA: "And what's your background?"
MALMGREN: "My personal background is in journalism and Lorraine is in English as a second language."
AA: "Let's talk about an average issue of Easy English Times. What will people find in it?"
MALMGREN: "Every month we try to include useful information, so we'll have information on health and fitness. We'll have people-at-work stories. We want things to be relevant to daily lives. We also do feature stories of things that are current interest. We try to encourage people to vote, for example. We have stories on immigration. We love to put student writing in the paper. That's the thing that we love the most. So we publish student writing, which comes in many different forms, from poetry to personal essays to stories."
AA: "Now Lorraine, you were an ESL teacher."
RUSTON: "I still am. I've been teaching ESL for over 30 years. And then I write the paper and I use it with my class. So I can see how it's working and what they like and what they don't like."
AA: "And how do you distribute the Easy English Times?"
MALMGREN: "Mainly in classroom sets, by mail. Lorraine also writes learning activities that we publish every month with the paper, so that teachers get an extra page of learning activities so that they can walk into a classroom and start teaching from the paper."
AA: "What's the circulation figures and how have they grown?"
MALMGREN: "It's almost five-thousand now. And it's growing slowly because we are the staff, so we have limited resources."
AA: "It's all volunteer, labor-of-love type work."
RUSTON: "Totally. We don't even pay ourselves."
AA: "I notice that on your banner, it mentions California. But you tell me you've got readers beyond California now."
MALMGREN: "We've gotten a lot of interest at this conference, but we do focus mainly on California. But we'll have to go home, I think, and talk about other possibilities."
RUSTON: "Ninety percent of our information is global, or United States. For instance, in March, April and May, we're running a big story about Lewis and Clark, in honor of the two-hundredth anniversary. So this is certainly United States history, and it will be helpful for citizenship learners, as well."
AA: "What is the subscription price?"
MALMGREN: "It's fifteen dollars for an individual subscription, or in a classroom set, it comes out to sixty cents a copy, or six dollars per student per year. But you can order the paper by the month and start and stop orders anytime."
AA: "What's your Web site?"
MALMGREN: "It's easyenglishtimes.com. Or our e-mail is email@example.com."
AA: "In terms of editorials, taking an editorial stance, you're the publisher -- do you take positions on issues?"
MALMGREN: "We haven't really done that a lot. We try to do it in newspaper format, though, so we do have an editorial page. We just recently had a guest editorial that was more talking about spring. It was not political. And we do like letters to the editor, and it really encourages student writing. We want the students to feel ownership of the paper."
RUSTON: "When we had our primary election in California, the recall, we took a stand on that."
AA: "What position did you take?"
RUSTON: "We were against the recall at that time."
AA: "Against recalling Governor Gray Davis. Are you going to endorse a candidate for president in November?"
MALMGREN: "We've never done that, but we might consider it."
RUSTON: "Yeah, I think we will."
MALMGREN: "We like to bring up current topics and then put out information so that teachers will take suggestions for class discussions and then have a lively discussion in their own class, and we provide them with some background information. That's really more, we think, how the teacher uses the newspaper in the classroom, as a stepping stone to other discussions or writing assignments."
AA: "So you are journalists for the English learner community, I guess."
MALMGREN: "That's exactly it. And we really feel strongly that we want people to start with Easy English Times and then go on to read other newspapers."
AA: Betty Malmgren is the publisher of Easy English Times, and Lorraine Ruston is the editor. Again, their Web site is easyenglishtimes.com. And the e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our e-mail here at Wordmaster is email@example.com. And we're on the Web at voanews.com/wordmaster. Rosanne Skirble is back with me next week. I'm Avi Arditti.