Education Reform Media

Paul Thomas on John Merrow and the Quality of EduJournalism

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This is a blog about a blog about a blog about the state of education journalism. But that’s okay, because blogs today are where you are likely to find the liveliest writing and reporting.

 

John Merrow wrote recently that this was the golden age of education reporting.

 

I posted his comments and urged Paul Thomas to respond.

 

Paul did indeed respond, and he was not at all pleased with Merrow’s judgment.

 

Paul disagrees that we live in the best days of education writing. He says Merrow is “delusional.”

 

First, Merrow’s assertion can be true only if edujournalism was criminally horrible in the past to which he is comparing today’s journalism—which is negligently horrible.

 

 

Next, since Merrow mentions the Education Writers Association (EWA), his delusional post represents perfectly a central problem with edujournalism reflected in EWA: edujournalists are trapped within an insular norm of reporting that includes both traditional flaws in journalism (objective journalism anchored in reporting “both sides” dispassionately) and contemporary market forces that are contracting mainstream media, resulting in press-release journalism by journalists without the necessary expertise or experiences needed to report on a discipline or field….

 

The primary mainstream outlets for edujournalism are negligently horrible—unable to rise above press-release journalism, to see through the political manipulation of journalism and education, to listen to professional educators and researchers, or to critically examine assumptions about children/students, teaching and learning, and the purposes of school.

 

And worst of all, he says, is that education journalists today have no historical lens with which to view stories and so they report old news as new news. They think they have discovered something innovative when they encounter a phenomenon that is unknown to them, but well know to experts in the field. And too: they frame educational quality within a simplistic and flawed context that outcomes are primarily about individual effort (students, teachers). 

 

In short, they lack the depth or breadth to question the system in which education is embedded. And that produces press-release journalism.

 

 

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