“How much money do you make?”
The question hung in the air for a minute as I struggled with exactly how to answer – even though I absolutely knew the question was coming.
This wasn’t my first time speaking to elementary school students about being a newspaper editor. I’ve done these talks dozens of times during the past few decades.
And each time I’ve been asked how much money I make. Every. Single. Time.
Kids are like that. They ask what’s on their minds. They’re blunt. They can often cut right through your soul with their questions and observations.
My daughter Emily is 20 now and I’ve had plenty of years of her asking or commenting on things based on what she sees. They are always insightful.
Like the time when Emily was eight years old and her mom and I were considering separating, but hadn’t told her yet.
“I don’t think you and mom love each other anymore,” she said.
I spit out my orange juice and choked for a minute. Her mom and I thought we had kept things quiet about our marital problems.
But kids know. They know so many things we don’t think they know. We constantly underestimate them and it’s really our loss.
So when I went to Suncrest Elementary in South Burnaby last week to speak to Andrea DeTerra’s class – which has been studying media literacy – I expected to be asked some pretty incisive questions and receive some interesting feedback.
The kids did not disappoint.
The first member of the class I met was Grade 4 student Mavis, who was assigned to greet me at the office and escort me to the portable on the far end of Suncrest.
“Thank you for coming today,” Mavis said, making me feel at home.
The next student I met showed me the classroom’s pet gerbils, Cinnamon, Ginger and another name I can’t quite remember.
Then a student named June came up and said she liked one of my articles – an opinion piece about a Burnaby infant named Max who had been exposed to measles.
It turns out the kids had really done their homework on the Burnaby NOW, so once I had finished my spiel and opened things up for questions, the kids went to work grilling me.
I got asked so many great questions about where we get our stories and information, and the best ways to spread these stories to the public.
One student asked if people in government “make it difficult” to get information. Why yes, yes they do.
Another student asked how we deal with situations in which the paper has gotten something wrong.
Like I said, these questions were incisive.
I don’t know how many schools do sections on media literacy, but I hope it’s a lot. Kids are the readers of the future and I’m always open to come and speak to get more young people interested in media.
Even if it involves being asked how much money I get paid.
Follow Chris Campbell on Twitter @shinebox44