Channel One News. Parents Choice Award? Really? What a joke.

June 21, 2017


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This is an email I sent to Don Oldenburg.

Dear Mr. Oldenburg
Last year you wrote a glowing article about Channel One News for the Parent Choice website.
You touched briefly on some people having a problem with “advertising.” You appear to be unfamiliar with what Channel One News has advertised to schoolchildren, and because you didn’t know, your Parents Choice readers weren’t told.
Snickers, M&Ms, Pepsi, McDonalds, Pringles, Twik, Mountain Dew, Lay’s potato chips, Gatorade, Hostess Cupcakes and Twinkies, were advertised for years even though everyone was aware of a childhood obesity crisis in our country.
To your credit you did mention “fast-food” in your article, but in a totally wrong sense. 
I could mention some movie advertisements, but I don’t want to offend you. American Express ads for middle schoolers?  Red Bull ads? 
You failed to mention that there has never been an educational organization to endorse the use of Channel One News.  You also didn’t mention that groups like the National Council of Teachers of English, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumers Union, and the National PTA specifically condemn Channel One.
Casino Jack Abramoff was, hands down, the best Channel One agent in securing positive op-eds and articles about his client. 
Question: Did you receive any financial benefit in exchange for writing your Channel One article?  
Sorry if this sounds harsh, but it’s because of your impressive background that this fluff piece makes no sense.  Your significant use of Channel One boilerplate PR language also raises concern.  
I look forward to your reply.
Jim Metrock

Well, guess what? Mr. Oldenburg never replied.  When any parent reads praise for the controversial Channel One youth marketing company, they should be skeptical.

Example:  In 2000, the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics passed a resolution urging schools to remove Channel One from classrooms. To them the massive amount of junk food advertising Channel One was dumping into Alabama schools was a real health problem for children.

Soon after the pediatricians took that action, the president of the group received a letter from Alabama state senator George Clay.  The letter was bizarre.  Sen. Clay attacked the pediatricians for meddling in the Channel One controversy. Basically the senator told the pediatricians they were out of line for speaking out about this issue concerning schoolchildren.  He said Channel One News was a truly wonderful resource for students and he stood behind the company.  How dare a bunch of doctors think they know better.  It’s tone was shrill and angry.  To me it didn’t sound like it was written by an elected official and certainly not written by Senator Clay.  I had met him before and knew him to be a charming, genteel man who wouldn’t use the verbiage  in this letter.

I called Senator Clay and got him at his insurance agency.  I mentioned the letter to Alabama pediatricians and before I could ask if he indeed wrote it, he instantly began apologizing.  I was taken by the quickness of his mea culpa.  He said that he didn’t write the letter, that his friend Martin Christie prepared it and asked him to put his signature on it.  Martin Christie was Channel One’s Alabama lobbyist.  Surprise: Christie’s lobbying firm Public Affairs Strategies contributed to Senator Clay’s reelection campaign.

That’s one example of how Channel One “earns” its praise.  I am not saying Mr. Oldenburg and the Parents Choice award took anything from Channel One.  I think the simpler explanation is that Mr. Oldenburg and the Parents Choice organization did not do their homework.  They didn’t spend the time they needed to understand why Channel One has lost so many schools and has angered so many parents and educators. It might have been that Mr. Oldenburg was given the task of justifying a decision that the Parents Choice people had already made.  Whatever the reason, the public was not served.
Here is Mr. Odenburg’s puff piece:

Channel One News Video Library and Curriculum

Fall 2016 Website

Ages: 7 – 18 yrs.
Publisher: Channel One News

A little background first: Channel One News is not a new endeavor. Whittle Communications rolled it out in a small number of U.S. high schools in 1990, innovating the idea of bringing a sample of daily TV news coverage into the classroom. But, for some, it quickly gained a negative reputation for serving America’s school kids pre-digested, fast-food, news reports-even if the idea, then and now, was to encourage students to be informed, news-savvy citizens.

The reality is that many kids actually did get a dose of news in their lives that they definitely would not have otherwise.

But the underlying controversy, which for some parents continues, is that Channel One News comes with a considerable addendum of advertising. So, even in a world where advertising, good and bad, injects itself constantly and at every age, with Channel One News you get two minutes of ads for every 10 minutes of news.

Today, Channel One News’ award-winning, news and public-affairs broadcasts, now owned by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, reach more than 11,000 middle schools and high schools, and more than 5 million students nationwide, with each day’s engaging news and supplementary educational content that syncs with Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The daily newscasts have two editions: one for grades 3-5 and the other for grades 6-13.

And this is news you should know: In 2015, Channel One News announced its launch of the Channel One News Video Library, a searchable database of comprehensive Channel One news-based videos and interactive activities tied to current events. Not only did that initiative add another huge resource for teachers, it added an immeasurable resource to help students interpret the news. In a world where seeing is believing more than ever, where on TV News every day you hear the words, “Take a look at…,” Channel One’s Video Library is a compelling resource for this generation of students.

Categorized by grade level, key words, and topics, Channel One News provides more than 2,200 video segments, from Science and Social Studies, to Sports and the Arts. The news videos are produced with background information tying to the current event to history. In one recent video, in which President Obama visits Hiroshima, students learn about the historic events (including a film clip of the atomic bomb exploding on the Japanese city, plus eye-witness accounts) that led to this emotional historic visit. Other reports included a story about sexism in Super Hero movies, an amazing calculus teacher in East L.A., an organ-donation prom date, and new nutrition labels on foods.Teachers, and even parents, can click on “Curriculum” and connect to links to discussion questions tied to the video, vocabulary, and even quiz questions, plus extended “instructional routines,’ that guide the learning process about the historic event.

If there’s a drawback, it’s a time lag. News is a bit yesterday at times. But, otherwise, this is an exceptional resource for teaching and learning current events.

Don Oldenburg   ©2016 Parents’ Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of “The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion” (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.


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