As early as 1795, newspapers were promoting use of their papers in schools, but it was not until the early 1930s that the effort began in earnest with The New York Times and The Milwaukee Journal providing free newspapers to schools in their area. By the 1950s, the program had expanded across the county and was formalized by the Newspaper Association of America. Today, close to 1,000 newspapers participate, reaching almost half of all public school students in the United States.

The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer’s NIE program started in 1990 and now provides free newspapers to teachers and students in seven area counties: Breckinridge, Daviess, Hancock, McLean, Muhlenberg, Ohio and South Spencer, Indiana. Every kindergarten through 12th grade teacher in any county, city, Catholic or private school systems is eligible to participate. Papers also are provided to alternative schools, community and technical schools and adult education programs, as well as summer learning programs.

NIE is a cooperative effort between the paper, which covers all administrative costs and a large portion of production costs, and local businesses that supplement the production and distribution costs of sending close to 10,000 newspapers free of charge each week to area classrooms.


Studies show that when teachers use newspapers as an education and literacy tool in their classrooms:

  • Reading levels & comprehension levels rise
  • Vocabulary, spelling and grammar improve
  • Number literacy improves
  • Standardized test scores rise
  • Students develop logic order skills
  • Students develop thoughtful opinions

Teachers can use the newspaper in so many ways, including teaching students about current events, history, math, geography, government, writing and the difference between facts and opinions.

But the NIE program is more than just free newspapers! All teachers who participate in the program have access to the following:

Special Features for Young Readers

These include the weekly A TO Z Kids News page, which runs Monday in the Messenger-Inquirer and Thursday in the McLean County News; the World of Wonder science and history feature, which runs on Tuesday; the Healthy Me! article that runs on Thursday; and special serial stories that run each semester in the Messenger-Inquirer. Learn more about each of these below:

A-to-Z Kids News – Our full-page color A-to-Z Kids page offers a summary of an interesting cultural issue along with a word-find game and crossword puzzle. Recent topics included the Olympics, Elvis Presley’s birthday and learning about musical instruments. This material is best suited for elementary and early middle school students. We have quite a few local businesses that support this feature so be sure to say thanks when you see them!

World of Wonder – The World of Wonder feature explores the realms of history, science, nature and technology. It is geared for both young and adult readers. Creator Laurie Triefeldt, an award-winning graphic journalist, uses a reader-friendly style and beautiful, full-color illustrations to give readers mini-lessons on such diverse topics as storms, castles, monarch butterflies, polar bears and jellyfish.

Healthy Me! – The Healthy Me! column is written by a local health or wellness professional and addresses an issue of importance to our community. In addition to the article, suggested discussion questions, activities and links to other resources are posted on the Messenger-Inquirer’s NIE webpage at

Woody & Chloe – Each fall, the Messenger-Inquirer runs a 10-week chapter story about Woody, a loveable dachshund, and his sister Chloe. The stories typically follow the pups as they learn something new about Kentucky while getting into a number of fun adventures. Each chapter runs in the Tuesday issue of the paper. Classroom activities also are made available to teachers.

Online Content

Teachers participating in the NIE program can request free access to the Messenger-Inquirer’s entire website for both themselves and their students – a benefit typically reserved for paying customers! The NIE webpage features a 30-day news feed of articles of interest to educators, archives of past Healthy Me! articles and links to curriculum/lesson plan ideas. As a member of the NIE Institute, the Messenger-Inquirer also makes hundreds of curriculum supplements available to area teachers. Materials span the spectrum from special observances (such as Constitution Day, Women’s History Month and African American History Month) to math, science, history and wellness topics. Check these out at

News to Use E-Newsletter

Teachers participating in the NIE program also receive our electronic News to Use newsletter, which is sent each week school is in session. The newsletter features articles of interest from the week, links to Healthy Me articles and quizzes, information about school tours of the newspaper, and resources for hot topics and events.

Speakers & Tours

Finally, teachers participating in the NIE program have access to a Speakers Bureau of newspaper leaders and reporters, as well as priority scheduling for student tours of the newspaper office and production facility.


For more information about the NIE program, ways to support it and how to sign up to participate, contact the NIE Coordinator at 270-691-7247 or  visit

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