Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Education Reporters

Here's an interesting article from Jay Matthews who managed to get over the initial sting of the criticism and recognize that he could do a better job as an education reporter.

Unfortunately, there is a new study by the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute in Herndon, Va., interrupting my treasured solitude and making harsh judgments about how education reporters like me are doing our jobs. (You can find the study by going to one of the institute's Web sites and looking for the link to Society's Watchdogs.) It says we are leaving readers ignorant of interesting innovations in schooling because we spend too much time and space on the minutia of school board, county council and education department action.

They counted the sources in all those stories and found 95 percent -- 1,364 citations -- were from "government/public school-affiliated sources" and only 5 percent, or 74 citations, were not tied to government or public schools. In 261 stories on school funding, the report said, individual taxpayers were quoted only six times and taxpayer advocacy groups were never quoted.
And something we saw in Nashville just recently:
"If the tax collectors choose to raise taxes, tax payers finally learn what the school budget, developed months earlier, means to them. By this time, tax payers also face a united lobby of both tax collectors and tax spenders ready to portray tax payers as the grinches who stole Christmas if they object."
The essay is two pages--so don't miss the second one.

OK, the study was done in VA, but I'm thinking that doesn't let TN ed reporters off the hook. My experience with education reporters has been excellent. I cannot think of one time when I was misquoted or the reporter wrote a story that I had any involvement in that contained serious errors. BUT I have read many education stories where someone should have called me or SOMEONE else to get the other side of the story or some additional perspective.

So I was wondering why it is that these reporters do tend to rely on the government sources? So are these reporters lazy, inexperienced, or resentful that they only got the education beat and so lack the passion that might drive them to do more indepth stories? Not the one's I've spoken with. Are these reporters constrained by editors, time, resources, corporate policy or their own prejudices? How can we "help" them overcome those obstacles so that we all get more complete information?

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