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British newspaper for kidshas Beckham, serious stuff

British newspaper for kidshas Beckham, serious stuff

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LONDON - Smiling soccer star David Beckham graced the cover of Britain's new newspaper for children as it made its debut on Friday.

Inside, more serious news awaited young readers: a piece on the dangers of smoking to a look at how Britain holds local elections to a "Boring but Important" section on issues like rising oil prices.

The paper is called First News, caters to kids 9-12 years of age, comes out once a week and costs one pound ($1.85).

The tabloid-format paper, with an initial print run of 307,000, is the brainchild of two veterans from the go-go world of British media, which has no fewer than 10 national newspapers: Piers Morgan, former editor of the tabloid Daily Mirror, is the editorial director, and editor Nicky Cox formerly ran the British Broadcasting Corp.'s family division.

The aim is to feature the same kind of stories as regular newspapers, in areas including science, the environment, sports and showbiz, as well as lighter stuff and games.

Too much emphasis on hard news would doom the paper, Cox said. "It needs to be cool and something kids are proud to be seen with - not something they want to hide in their bag," she added.

Friday's serious parts included a piece on foreign convicts being released from British jails without being considered for deportation, the dangers of bird flu and the woes of the British health care system.

Some of the fluff: a bit on the world's largest cow, the world's largest skateboard (it uses car tires) and Britain's national doughnut week, billed as "the perfect excuse to act like Homer Simpson."

As one of several celebrity contributors, First News boasts billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, who was also on the front page Friday. In his first column, he urged kids to send him business ideas for his critique.

"Hey, you never know, I might even be able to give you a few tips to help it get off the ground," Branson wrote.

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