Media: More Skepticism Needed -- But Not More Paranoia
Journalists and others will be gathered at Columbia's Journalism School this weekend to discuss the role of foundations both in shaping school reform and in shaping media coverage of education issues. Stories about philanthropic influence are turning into something of a cottage industry what with the Dissent story (Got Dough?), the Newsweek/Center on Public Integrity takedown (Back to School for the Billionaires ) and the Charlotte Observer story (Who's the power behind CMS?). Having written about these topics frequently over the years, I've found them all interesting -- it's important for reporters and others to understand how the media and the reform movement are being shaped -- but not entirely convincing, in that they generally seem to ascribe a certain all-powerfulness to private foundations at the same time they're gleefully reporting that privately funded efforts haven't worked. There's also a certain whiff of witch hunt that can easily get into stories like these: the notion that anyone who's taken foundation money or done anything reformy has lost all capacity for independent thought or credibility. And yet, I agree with the basic notions that funders and reformers are trying to influence public opinion through the media, and education reporters should be much more skeptical and critical than they have been. Image via.