EdMedia Commons Archive

Flunking the Test: Are education writers too easy on ed reformers?

Paul Farhi, media critic for the Washington Post, wrote a provocative article for the American Journalism Review decrying coverage of education reform. He contends American education has never been better, yet headlines trumpet the “failure” of public schools.

His article generated quite a bit of discussion on our K-12 listserv for reporters.Charles Lussier, a longtime education reporter for the Baton Rouge Advocate who felt Farhi made very valid points, also notes that the press reflects the dominant ideas of the time. For instance, he wrote, were we really losing to the Soviets in the 50s? Probably not.

Much of the coverage Farhi cites actually doesn’t come from journalists who cover education as a beat, but from media people who are generalists. 

On the other hand, it is true that journalists should be skeptical of reformer claims, just as they should be skeptical about any and all claims  in education.

Linda Perlstein, EWA’s former Public Editor, also made a worthwhile point in Farhi’s article. The best way to show the complexity of the education process is for journalists to sit in classrooms and watch what is happening. Yet fewer schools are allowing reporters into their facilities.Then, as Perlstein mentions, reporters must rely more on talking heads.

Often the best education stories come out of the classroom and weeks of painstaking observation.

So what do you think of Farhi’s article? We’d love to hear from advocate members.

And what about the move to limit access to schools? Can education reporters do their jobs if they can’t observe classrooms?


This post originally appeared on EWA’s now-defunct online community, EdMedia Commons. Old content from EMC will appear in the Ed Beat archives.