Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
OREM — If you look carefully, you'll see that this is no ordinary newsroom. The senior reporter peppers an article with hearts, her younger colleague lays on top of his desk eating a banana, and then there is the sign on the door: "The Magical Cuckoo Bananas Newsroom."
Welcome to Kid News, run by editor-in-chief Mei, age 7, of Orem, Utah.
"So Mei's name in Japanese means 'bound to light,'" her mom, Jackie, said. "And ever since Mei was born, it's just a fluorescent, glowing, huge, like the sunshine."
This was no more evident than when Mei was 3. When other kids her age wanted playdates, Mei wanted a job.
"When I was 3 years old, I asked my mom like every single minute it seemed. 'Can I have a job? Can I have a job?' And she would just ignore me, and then I just kept on saying it," Mei said.
"She wanted a business or a job, and it was relentless," Jackie recounted.
Maybe they could have a chore chart, mom suggested. "I'm like, 'Mom, this is not a job!'" Mei exclaimed.
Jackie isn't sure what sparked the interest. Mei thinks it came from watching Target cashiers scan purchases.
One day, Jackie was outside talking to a neighbor and noticed her daughter was going house to house in their cul-de-sac.
Mei returned with a couple of dollars and a big smile. She had been going door to door selling her artwork.
"That was a pretty big moment when she had the money, and I could see the satisfaction on her face, and I thought there's no way to rewind this," Jackie said.
Then Mei decided to make a list of every pet in the neighborhood. Mom dialed the phone, and Mei talked to pet owners. She made a list of 80 pets.
Mom suggested to Mei when she was four to turn that list into a newspaper, which was "Mei's Messenger," and, now with the addition of her 4-year-old kid brother, Ren, as a staff member, is now called "Kid News."
Jackie said her daughter, and now, to a lesser extent, her son, generates all the story ideas, writes or dictates all the stories, and lays out the paper. She records the children's stories and interviews on an iPhone and transcribes them.
"Mei likes to say, 'Mom, you're just the typist,' "Jackie said. Mom also arranges interviews and sews – yes, with a sewing machine – the papers together.
"So, it's her. It's her thing. Until she wants to stop."
Kid News is about two siblings and their world. The monthly publication has included stories about climbing trees, school lunch, strict teachers, keeping a pet snail, and anything Mei loves.
Mei, articulate and confident beyond her years, has interviewed muscle car owners, a rabbi, a police officer, a veterinarian, a librarian and many others over the past three years, and never, Jackie said, with a hint of nervousness.
"Yeah, I'll just go up to anybody and talk," Mei said.
"She has never been afraid, ever," Jackie said. "She wanted to do horse vaulting. And every time, there's still a part of me that thinks, 'this will scare her. She's going to be afraid now. She's going to understand what nervousness is.' Never. In her first horse vaulting lesson, the teacher came up afterward and said, 'She's fearless. I like that.'"
The brother, Ren, is the staff humorist.
On a recent fact-finding trip to the Hogle Zoo for their Earth Day edition, supported by a microgrant from the Jane Goodall Institute, Ren and his sister interviewed a zookeeper about red pandas. Being a huge red panda fan, Ren arrived dressed in a panda mask and tail.
Ren's Rambles have offered readers volcano safety tips…
"If you see a volcano near your house, you need to walk inside of your home."
…and addressed the issue of "sneaky farts."
"Sneaky farts are hiders. They are just sneaky. Sneaky farts are jumping out in the pool. Sneaky farts come out when I'm playing and when I'm in the bath, too."
Jackie said this year, between their 50 subscriptions and newspapers they give away, they'll print on a second-hand 25 dollar copy machine and distribute about 1500 copies of Kid News.
It all goes to show, Mom said, children should be seen, heard, and read.
"It's extremely validating to children to see their words in print. And I have learned that kids' voices really matter," Jackie said. "She has good ideas. And what she says I think is important, and it's creative and interesting. So, I always just find a way to support her as much as I can."