NYROB Critique of Digital Journalism Praises Hechinger Strategy

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The New York Review of Books is running a three- part series on Digital Journalism and so far — Part 1 (How Good Is It?), Part 2 (The Next Generation) — it’s been pretty much unrelentingly critical of all the shiny new media outlets and experiments out there that get so much attention. 

Digital journalism isn’t nearly as innovative, impactful, or successful in terms of readership as we’ve been led to believe, according to the series (penned by former CJR executive editor Michael Massing).

Perhaps this is a -much-needed dose of realism, as in edtech where the enthusiasm sometimes gets the best of journalists and journalism-watchers.  I’ve certainly had occasion to note the challenges and limitations of digital journalism coming out of some of the big new names on the block. Take for example FiveThirty-Eight Stumbles Out Of The GatePolitico Brings Up The Rear On StudentsFirst Reboot Story.

Or perhaps it’s simply a case of old media hating on “new” media. (Poynter’s Jim Warren points out that there are “few greater disconnects than between the cerebral New York Review of Books, a small-circulation bastion of the literary elite, and BuzzFeed.” 

Maybe that’s why the reaction has been pretty muted, far as I can tell: BuzzFeed is big – but it still doesn’t break stories like print does (The Guardian); 12 things to know about NY Review of Books’ take on BuzzFeed (Poynter); The imitator’s dilemma? (Deep Media).

There is, however, one mention of education-related digital journalism — Chalkbeat and the Hechinger Report get a quick shout out (along with the Marshall Report) as part of “an explosion of narrowcast sites providing in-depth coverage of single subjects.”

And there’s an implicit endorsement of the Hechinger approach to writing pieces and getting them placed in much larger “legacy” publications (including in the past the New York Times). Digital outlets struggle with impact, according to the NYROB, compared to traditional news organizations — but a handful of folks have figured out how to get the mainstream news organizations to publish their work. “When it comes to impact, traditional news organizations retain an overwhelming edge.”

As I noted in a previous post, THR (can we call it that now?) has had its writing published in The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, US News & World Report, Education Week, USA Today, the Miami Herald, McClatchy, the American Prospect, and even the NYT. For a current list of publishing partners, look here.

Related posts: Five Years Ago, The Hechinger Report Was An Uncertain Prospect*But Are All The New Ed-Focused Outlets Really *Helping*?.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.