On the local evening news, a story ran recently about closing down a popular segment of a relatively new rail trail to work on the crumbling infrastructure of pipes crossing beneath the trail and nearby roads.
As part of the story, the on-air reporter chatted with two women who frequently walk along the trail each morning, but will now be diverted. The reporter ended the segment by asking those two women their opinions of replacing the pipes—both nodding in agreement while endorsing the work.
Watching this, I recognized everything wrong with journalism in the U.S. The story was breezy and relevant, but I had to wonder what authority two random women walking down a rail trail had to be credible voices about the need for infrastructure work in the area.
My disappointment in journalism, notably education journalism, has been documented regularly in my blogging over the past two-plus years. And the recent national debate about police behavior and accountability has now intersected with my own work refuting the national teacher-bashing more and more common during the Obama administration as well as my persistent challenges to education journalism.
The tension is between supporting the institutions of public education, criminal justice, journalism, and unions as well as the individual people who work in those fields or situations, but being deeply concerned that we are mostly failing each of those in systemic ways.
It is possible, then, I think, to strongly criticize education journalism as failing its duty while not necessarily indicting each and every education journalist.
That said, education journalism is quite flawed, mired in a lack of knowledge about the history, practice, and research in education, trapped like a bug in amber in the compulsion to air “both sides” equally of every issue.
Here, then, I offer a reader to that concern: