Giving Up on Education Reporting

By 09/23/2009

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Mike Antonucci (see is arguably the country’s most knowledgeable writer on K-12 collective bargaining and related issues.  If you are not signed up to receive his periodic e-mail updates, you should be.  In a recent dispatch he observed:

“I occasionally complain about the media’s education coverage, but I’ve applauded what I consider to be good work, too. Mainstream reporters have to be generalists, so it’s unfair to blame them for lack of depth into the many and varied arcane topics some of us deal with – including, of course, labor.”

I could not disagree more with the notion that it’s unfair to blame education reporters for lack of depth in covering labor issues.  These are the issues that drive K-12 school budgets and day-to-day operations.  If education reporters aren’t expected to have depth in their reporting of labor and collective bargaining, in what areas are they expected to have expertise?

Incidentally, Mike Antonucci’s observations on this topic were spurred by a Mike Petrilli piece, as he describes below:

“In a dwindling newspaper industry, there is a lot of soul-searching going on, but it’s nice to see someone take on the status of education reporting specifically. Michael Petrilli wrote a story headlined “Disappearing Ink” for Education Next that is really worth your time.”

While Antonucci is as informed as anyone on these matters, it discourages me to see him effectively raising the white flag in terms of what we can expect from education reporters.

Comment on this article
  • Mike Antonucci says:

    George, I’m sorry we don’t see eye-to-eye on this, but I think having education reporters cover the teachers’ unions is already one step removed from optimal. I’m old enough to remember when we had labor reporters and columnists. That niche has gone the way of buggy whip makers.

    We can demand better work from our education reporters, but we need more specialists, and fewer generalists and wannabe pundits.

  • George Mitchell says:


    With staffs shrinking at most dailies, it has hard for me to envision the deployment of specialists in K-12 collective bargaining.

    What that leaves the public with is sporadic, after-the-fact reporting on the consequences of bargaining. So, for example, when the Milwaukee Public Schools enter real or de facto bankruptcy in a few years the stories will explain that negotiated pension and health care costs are the reason.

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