Is the Decline of the Mainstream Press Bad for Education?

By 12/03/2009

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Education is the topic of only 1.4 percent of news coverage by television, radio, newspapers and news web sites, a report issued by the Brookings Institution tells us. That percentage is nothing peculiar to this year, the Brookings scholars go on to say.  In 2007, the percentage was only 1.0 percent.

Should we be distressed?  Perhaps, but we shouldn’t be surprised. News is largely entertainment, and what is entertaining are murders, rapes, airplane crashes, and the comings and goings of celebrities.  Also, the public wants to know what the weather will be like this afternoon, tomorrow, and early next week, and traffic flow on every expressway in the metropolitan area needs to be duly reported.  Iran, Afghanistan, unemployment rates, and the stock market all take their daily share of the total. If education is to be newsworthy, it requires that someone be shot at school, or a snowstorm be large enough to shutter the classrooms, or some unusual kid has to do well at a science fair, if a good news story is needed to add some semblance of balance.

All that does not leave much space for serious discussion of the issues in any specific policy arena, education or otherwise.

But as Robert Pondiscio concluded in his post about the Brookings report at the Core Knowledge Blog, “These are not necessarily bad trends.  And whether they are or not, they can’t be stopped.”

So the policy wonks in education should not expect their work to get much coverage in the mainstream media.  But they can take pride in the fact that their efforts in highly specialized media will attract all the more attention from policy makers, simply because no one else is saying much.

The major challenge to education reform comes not from the mainstream media’s lack of attention but from those with vested interests in the status quo. Were it not for the specialized outlets that keep the education reform conversation going, they would be totally in charge.

All hail to the education blogs, the Brookings Institution, AEI, Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force, Education Sector, Education Trust, Fordham Foundation, and, yes, Education Week, who keep those who care about the future of American education well informed.

Who gives a hoot about the amount of coverage given education by the Slippery Rock Daily?

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