Could the wheezing fate of America’s newspapers crush even the hearts
of young children? You bet! The National Spelling Bee, which famously
felled contestant Ben Bernanke in 1965 — the word he couldn’t handle
— has inspired books, movies, and even a Broadway musical in recent
years, and some 5 million viewers tuned in to catch the final rounds on
ABC in 2008. But youngsters vie for a modest $37,600 in cash and
savings bonds only after winning regional competitions mostly sponsored
by local newspapers. Small daily rags and even a few big-city ones have
been folding fast — several dozen so far in 2009, including Denver’s Rocky Mountain News,
which has produced seven champions over the years. So some communities
are grumbling that Scripps needs a new competition model. Mr.
President, we want a bee b-a-i-l-o-u-t. — KR
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