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Audio: Education Reporting Frequently Lacks Balance, Context, Multiple Sources

This latest segment from NPR's "On The Media" (Whipped Into A Frenzy) is ostensibly about health care reporting, which is described as "plagued by incredulity [sic?], false correlation, and general public confusion" -- but it applies equally well to education coverage:


Quality journalism is still out there -- yowza, some of you work really hard and are so careful and smart!-- but all too often writers and editors seem to be trying to scare or soothe readers rather than engage and inform them.  The scaring mode takes two primary forms:  your schools suck, or someone is trying to ruin your good schools.  The soothing mode -- aka "gee, whiz!" -- touts a small or momentary success, or preliminary (lucky?) bit of effectiveness, and treats new ideas as newer than they really are.  

Sadly, most folks -- including journalists -- don't want to hear about any of this.  "Not I," they say.  Or "I can only tell part of the story each time out." Ditto for those who fund journalism, who often have pet approaches and ideas that they deem especially promising.  (Note that the health care journalism critic in the piece is going out of business.) However, advocates and communications professionals love having such an easily manipulated set of folks to sell their stories to and through.  

My unwanted "new rules" for education journalism include a disclosure on every story showing where or how it was suggested (a press release, phone call, editor's anecdote), what if any professional affiliations quoted parents and teachers might have (are they union stewards or part-time advocates), and a round of beers for any reporter or editor who approves a story that doesn't include a fair representation of the other side's arguments or the historical context. What do you think?


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