Darrell M. West, Grover J. Russ Whitehurst, and E.J. Dionne, Jr.
Education is a nearly adumbered issue, according to this new paper that looks at national and local news coverage. Examining newspapers, news Web sites, television, and radio during the first nine months of 2009, the authors find that education-related coverage is just 1.4 percent of all news output; in comparison, government issues garnered 11.3 percent, foreign affairs 9.8 percent, and health care 9.2 percent. When education did receive exposure, it was usually focused on budget problems, school crime, and H1N1, rather than issues more directly associated with learning, such as curriculum, school reform, or teacher quality. With 74 million primary through postsecondary students enrolled in a system that “represents a fundamental mechanism for social and economic advancement and long-term civic engagement,” the authors contend that this paucity of substantive journalism is harmful. They suggest a number of recommendations: Schools should open their doors and encourage more news coverage; young people should take an active part in promoting communication of their school happenings; key players should host events to draw attention to problems and noteworthy solutions; and grant makers should aid struggling newspapers in reinstating more education coverage. News outlets themselves should reconsider education-reporting cutbacks and find more ways to integrate blogs and citizen journalism into their products. Oh, and we should all stop binging on holiday cookies and eggnog and eat spinach and skim milk instead. It would be wonderful if the media and other groups listened to the advice offered by Brookings, but we’re not optimistic. Get the full story here.