Monday, October 19, 2009

The blue moon has come.

When my brother Rick and I were in third grade, we had a teacher named Mrs. Frankiewicz. Mrs. Frankiewicz used to say that she never made mistakes—just once in a blue moon. One day, when she wrote something incorrectly on the board, my brother pronounced, “The blue moon has come!” (Genius then, genius now.) So “the blue moon has come” is the Perlsteinian term for hell freezing over.

Well, blue moons and frozen hell—I have a blog. My aversion to the concept of blogging is no secret. I loathe the word and all of its derivations, so much so that my husband got me this t-shirt. Yet every time I rant about something, he says, “You should start a blog.” Grrrr. I don’t feel like the world needs unexpurgated access to everybody’s rants, nor their raves. I don’t want to read a commentary on how cute your children are, what TV shows you’re watching, what books you are reading (even if it is one of mine) or what you made for dinner last night.

Unless it was cupcakes. Because I have been known to read blogs about cupcakes. And bad celebrity clothing choices. And journalism. And even education policy. So, yeah, I guess I read blogs all the time. But I still never wanted to write one. In my job interview to become public editor for the Education Writers Association, one of the many people around the big conference room table (seven against one—how fair is that?) asked if I would be willing to blog. I changed the subject. I still got the job.

A year and a half later, it turns out I am willing, and eager. My job is to help improve coverage of education, through direct coaching of journalists and broader commentary. (If you want to know more about it, or contact me for help, look here.) So a blog makes all kinds of sense. I find myself taking up issues on EWA's internal listserve and in our newsletter that I realize people outside the organization might like to hear about. When I have a story idea to suggest, or when an oft-repeated myth needs debunking—no, states do NOT build prisons based on third-grade reading levels—or when a report comes out I know reporters will be calling about, I’ll have a place to share.

And, of course, a blog’s comments allow a give-and-take, which I look forward to. EWA’s listserves are a great spot for discussion. (Members only, but you should join!) I don’t mean to supplant that. But it can’t hurt to have a broader conversation, open to everyone.

I believe that one of the most important purposes of journalism about education, or any social issue, is to explore the point at which policy meets reality. This is especially the case during fast-moving times for policy-making—like now. In many ways, the national debate is moving quicker than the journalism. If you visit this blog, you’ll get my take on how reporters can pull ahead and make sure the right questions are asked before new approaches are in place. My job is not to take positions on policy, but it's certainly my duty to point out inconsistencies and gaps that journalists should explore.

A few things:

  • Part of my job is calling out bad journalism, but I have no desire to embarrass anyone. I am a coach—and not the Bill Parcells kind. When I was in college, I was a crew coxswain, responsible for making sure eight rowers moved in sync. My freshman coach gave me a tip: praise people by name, but critique them by seat number. I’ll single out stories for kudos, but criticism will come in the collective. If you want to read a blog that picks on individual reporters, go elsewhere.
  • I think imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and an important step to good journalism. Do I encourage plagiarism? Of course not. But there are so many local stories I read that I wish everyone were writing in their own cities. That’s a big theme of my newsletter columns and will continue to be a theme here.
  • I am new to this whole thing; I don’t know the etiquette yet. I welcome tips and comments. But don’t be a jerk.
  • I guess I lied when I told the many people “following” me on Twitter that I would never, ever tweet. I will post notifications of new blog posts to @lindaperlstein and on Facebook.
  • I may not be able to resist the occasional reference to food or reality television, and I’m certainly going to talk about what books I’m reading, insofar as they are related to education, or journalism, or both. But I promise never to write about how cute my child is.

18 comments:

  1. Welcome to the dreaded blogosphere! You have certainly mastered hyperlinks. And Milo is adorable.

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  2. Mary Ellen FlanneryOctober 19, 2009 at 10:41 AM

    But he is very cute...

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  3. I'm glad you're doing this, Linda. I'm going to subscribe to my Google reader right away. And I would read a blog about Milo.

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  4. Best wishes Linda. I look forward to reading your posts.

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  5. Some of my best education stories have been about my daughter. She, however, does not agree.
    Donna at AP

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  6. I'm going to make a blog petitioning Linda to start a Milo blog.

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  7. Look forward to reading your posts.

    How come you never mention that you were an intern at the Middletown Press, which by the way, now has only 3 full-time staff writers.

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  8. Love it! Thanks for doing this and please don't exclude Milo!

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  9. Jo.Procter@williams.eduOctober 19, 2009 at 11:45 AM

    Hi - I think the Higher Education survey on EWA, dated 2006, is way out of date, given what's gone on in journalism and the economy. Maybe it would be wise to delete it?

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  10. Looks great Linda! Can't wait to follow you from @rationalenergy. Post more Milo pics! He's lookin' great! -Steve

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  11. Welcome, Linda. I'll be a regular reader. I'm glad you're doing it! And you can brag up Milo any time you want!

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  12. Welcome to the [redacted]! If you hate the word blog, just wait a few months - it's heading the way of the "chat room." It's one of those activities that's become wallpaper for some internet users (people will still share & chat, but not call it by those terms).

    In any case, I can't wait to read more from you, in whatever form it appears.

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  13. Welcome to the jungle, Linda. Long overdue. Looking forward to reading you in your new incarnation as a digit-stained wretch.

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  14. So what are you reading? I just finished "Instructional Rounds" by Elmore (et al) from Harvard. Next up is "District Leadership that Works" by Marzano. I've heard that Elizabeth City's next book is going to be out soon and it is supposed to be good. She is a colleague of Elmore at Harvard.

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  15. Great! I look forward to reading your stuff. Great resource by a very fine, educated and knowledge-able reporter. You are on my RSS feed

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  16. Thanks for the kind words about Milo. What am I reading? Lush Life by Richard Price. The last education book I read was the terrific Just Like Us by Helen Thorpe. Next one is probably Crossing the Finish Line by William Bowen.

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  17. Finallly, an education website that's mostly about cupcakes and cute kids. What a relief! I have had it with all this policy stuff. I have a great Wisconsin beer cheese cupcake recipe I'd LOVE to share! Let me know!!

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