What could education reporting look like?


I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how education reporting could be more relevant and powerful. Thinking A LOT. Enough to want to make it a regular feature on this blog. Although I don’t yet have a name for said feature (I’m hoping you come up with a rad idea and put it in the comments).

I think the reason I’ve got LOTS of opinions on how education is covered in the media is because I arrived at teaching through my history with reporting.

Back in 2005, inspired by my friend’s two-year missionary trip in Bolivia, I decided to serve for a year in AmeriCorps. After AmeriCorps NCCC rejected me because they couldn’t meet my medical needs,* I eventually got accepted at a position in an elementary school out in the Pacific Northwest. My thought in joining AmeriCorps was that serving in a school would help me be a better education reporter. I decided to stay in the classroom, but I still think a lot about education reporting and how it can be more meaningful.

To that end, Perry Parks is often on my mind, even now that I’m waaaaaaay far away from my life as a reporter. When I was at Michigan State, he was our editorial adviser at The State News. He also wrote an AMAZING and totally relevant book called Making Important News Interesting.

One of the BEST things Perry did when I was at the SNews was critique our paper DAILY. Monday through Friday we’d get e-mails that asked us why we chose to feature what we featured, how we chose to write….. anything was fair game, and I appreciated his feedback as well as his praise.

Reporting at the Michigan State Capitol, 2003-ish.

After tap dancing through a few papers and switching to teaching, I’ve found I’m fortunate to have friends who report on education who sometimes ask my thoughts on education reporting as someone with knowledge of both worlds. If I could, I’d talk their ears off for at least a night a week. As that’s not practical, I’ll share some possibilities here on Wednesdays instead. To say I’m hoping to be the Perry Parks of education reporting would be self-important. I just … don’t know what else to do to explain that I want to share this commentary in a productive, solutions-focused way.

My aim is not to complain about news coverage. I don’t want my posts to essentially be drawn-out versions of the insane comments sections of online news articles. Education reporters have an insane amount of ground to cover.

And I know that reporters, especially those working triple-time in print media, can be hamstrung by their media owners’ decisions, as evidenced in this recent Daily Show episode.

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I just … I just know that when I was a reporter, I wanted my work to be relevant to as many people as possible and to inspire change. When I didn’t really understand education (my degree had a liberal arts focus, so I was a jack of all but master of none**) and I wrote about it, my writing wasn’t as powerful as it could have been had I a more nuanced view of what was happening. But now that I DO have that inside view, I acknowledge that my writing is biased and would thus not really be valid reporting. So I guess I’m feeling stuck and I hope that by sharing my views it can lead to increased understanding for both teachers and reporters. Not that I’m so self-important to assume that reporters will actually read this.

Please note, I certainly don’t aim to bully the reporters themselves. Education, like any societal institution, is complex, and I have tremendous respect for many reporters who tackle it, including the tremendously talented Jamie Gumbrecht and Ed Ronco, who have both talked with me about education stuff and tolerated my flailing arms and bulging eyes.

So anyway, here we go. Look for all my education reporting feels starting on Wednesday.


* They originally accepted me. Actually, three different locations accepted me, and I was also asked, interviewed, and accepted to be a team leader by two of them. Then they got my medical records and learned I was prescribed antidepressants. Despite my doc’s recommendation that I’d be totally fine, NCCC retracted my acceptance.

**I loved the wide range of subjects I studied in my undergrad career. I am so grateful that I have a broad knowledge base, and I wish more people had that opportunity, regardless of their major.

One thought on “What could education reporting look like?”

  1. Wow! SO much to read and learn from you at MsHoughtonsclass.com! I’m hooked! I’ll probably be here every day (I’m not even an educator!). I love to read whatever you write. Good luck with this new venture. Can’t wait for you to start! You contribute SO much of your personal time to everything you do. You are SO dedicated. Love you. Mom

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