Getting Schooled

A report released yesterday by the Brookings Institution, “Invisible: 1.4 Percent Coverage for Education is Not Enough” (pdf) found that in the first nine months of 2009, only 1.4 percent of national news coverage from television, newspapers, news Web sites, and radio dealt with education, with the subjects of early childhood education and community colleges getting the shortest shrift.

The report notes that it’s tough times for the news industry these days and bemoans that the“‘perfect storm’ of financial disaster for American media” is happening just as major developments in the education world are underway: No Child Left Behind is due for reauthorization and the Obama administration is giving away $5 billion in “Race to the Top” stimulus money to state and local governments that remove impediments to charter schools and that tie teacher pay to students’ academic performance; two topics that could do with plenty of scrutiny.

Daniel Luzer at Washington Monthly points out that the study’s authors aren’t the only people interested in the intersection of journalism and education these days; G. Pascal Zachary wrote an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education last month, arguing that the university setting could be the answer to journalism’s economic collapse. He imagines “journalist-in-residence” programs within academic departments.

While foundations have money, universities have intellectual independence, moral credibility, management know-how, and a long history of tackling urgent societal crises. And many universities also run journalism schools or communication departments, which train future journalists, study journalism and media generally, and thus may seem like natural homes for the journalistic enterprise.

To bring the whole intersection of education and the media concept full-circle, just imagine a fellowship that embeds journalists at a graduate school of teaching … like, say, this one at the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, affiliated with Columbia University’s Teachers College. Hechinger not only offers yearly fellowships for those who want to write about teaching and learning - but another fellowship dedicated entirely to the community college beat - one of the very subjects the Brookings report wants to see more coverage of.

Here’s to getting more publications, journalists and readers schooled on the education beat.

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Alexandra Fenwick is an assistant editor at CJR.