I usually am not big on think tank panel discussions, but today’s Brookings event on the purported decline of education journalism could not have been more in my wheelhouse. To have missed it would have been like Lindsay Lohan telling Tara Reid that no, thank you, she doesn’t feel like joining her for an absinthe binge in her hotel room.
Part of my job is helping reporters analyze research reports. If somebody came to me about this one, I would have had lots of questions about how it was conducted. The conclusion that 1.4 percent of “news coverage” over nine months this year dealt with education was based on an analysis that counted Rush Limbaugh (how dare he not delve more meaningfully into curriculum theory!) but ignored all newspaper stories that were not on A1. I loved that my former colleague E.J. Dionne said “Linda is an excellent methodologist” when I asked about that—it’s the nicest compliment I’ve gotten in weeks—but I disagree with his and Russ Whitehurst’s responses that the A1-only calculus shouldn’t have skewed results.
That said. That particular factoid was not interesting to me. I did love the chart that broke down education coverage by topic. As much on hugging as on teacher training! More on swine flu than on ... almost anything! I could have done without at least 70 percent of the stories written this year about swine flu and Obama’s speech to schoolchildren (don’t ask for my methodology on that), so I think a lot of what the authors talk about in terms of coverage priorities is worth thinking about.
More tomorrow. Right now it’s home to read the ever-thinning paper.