"The Groundwater Times"
by Jana Miller Langenmach
For several years in the 1990s, one of the highlights of the
annual Children’s Groundwater Festival in Grand Island was the publication of
the Groundwater Times. This four-page
tabloid newspaper recounted the highlights of the day-long festival and
included interviews with participants, sponsors, and guests, as well as photos
of the many different events. I was privileged to serve as Groundwater Times editor for four years, 1995-1998, and remember
the experience fondly.
The Groundwater Times was distributed free
to people involved in the festival including students, teachers, presenters,
volunteers, and contributors. Among the sponsors over the years were the Union
Pacific Foundation, the J.C. Seacrest Trust, the Grand Island Independent, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL)
College of Journalism and Mass Communications, and the Hastings College
Journalism Department. Assisting was photographer Ann Enevoldsen.
The newspaper articles were written by journalism students at
various Nebraska institutions, including UNL, University of Nebraska-Kearney,
and Hastings College. The students were supervised by their college instructors
and a free-lance editor, who was hired by the Groundwater Foundation for the
project. Assignments were developed with the festival director and given to the
students in advance, along with background information.
“For one day we will function as a daily newspaper with
assignments and deadlines,” the student writers were told. The editor added the
following tips on what makes the Groundwater
- “Kids say the darndest things.” Remember the
festival is for and about kids. Include as many comments from kids as possible.
- “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Maybe not
always, but remember the necessity of eye-catching photos.
- “Grass is greener.” Don’t pass up a good story
you come across that isn’t listed on the assignment sheet.
The students wrote their stories on computers at the Grand Island Independent under the
guidance of Pete Letheby. The Groundwater Foundation’s free-lance editor
collaborated with Pete and other Independent
editors to write headlines, edit copy, decide placement, and select photos for
The notable visitors who attended the festival provided
exceptional interview opportunities for the Groundwater
Times writers. Among the visitors over the years were two Nebraska
governors, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator, the U.S.
Geological Survey director, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Interior, a
National Geographic reporter and photographer, representatives of UNICEF, and
presenters from the United Nations in New York City and the Smithsonian
Institution in Washington, D.C.
The Groundwater Times
was a valuable learning experience for the college students, enabling them to
work on their interviewing, writing, and editing skills in a real-world
environment. It also provided youngsters attending the festival and festival
presenters an opportunity to be interviewed, to talk to the media, and to
organize and synthesize their thoughts. Even more, the Groundwater Times provided a reliable, interesting record of the
festival and its impact on the community and the state.
30th Anniversary Story Teller Sponsor
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National Ground Water Association