Online Education News: Boring Glut — Or Golden Age?

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Mark Walsh’s new package of stories about the growth of online education outlets is worth a read for any education journalist or coverage-watcher.

While there’s nothing particularly new or different from what you may already know about the current education media landscape, the EdWeek package includes a lot of useful information in one place and some interesting observations (including one from me, for what it’s worth).

It includes a main story (Crowded Field of Online News Sites Focuses on Education Issues), a sidebear about Chalkbeat (Chalkbeat Wields Web to Boost Local Ed.-News Coverage), and a 2nd sidebar about so-called “advocacy” journalism (Some Online Sites May Blur News, Advocacy Line).  There’s also a nifty graphic featuring all the different sites that are discussed (see full version below).

The gist of the main piece — no surprise — is that there is an awful lot of education news out there these days, primarily available online, that has offset to some degree the decline of legacy and print coverage:

“The past two years or so have seen a boom in online news outlets covering education. New local and national sites are focusing exclusively on the subject; general-interest sites have education beat reporters or otherwise include K-12 issues in their mix.”

Over all, it’s been “been pretty good for education reporting,” says LynNell Hancock, a professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, who’s quoted in the piece. “There are far more places now that are doing serious, long-form education reporting… And there are more places for reporters to do this kind of work than ever before.”

USC professor Morgan Polikoff tends to agree, according to his quotes in Walsh’s piece:  “I think there is more quality journalism about education than when I started doing this a decade ago.”

But it’s a pretty crowded field, in terms of quality and trustworthiness, including “innumerable blogs” by teachers, education leaders, and think tanks. And for some — including those studying the field, “There is kind of an information overload.”

In response, some educators like Joshua Starr and Michael Lubelfeld rely on aggregators to help sift the torrent.

The issue of credibility is pretty obvious. Advocacy-oriented sites like The Seventy Four must not only inform those who agree with the views of the outlet but also generate a certain amount of credibility to outsiders. “We’ll all be reading with interest to see if the coverage here will rise above,” says Hancock about The Seventy Four. 

Too much of an effort at fair-mindedness creates its own problems, however. “I feel like writing without a perspective is pointless,” according to The Daily Caller’s Eric Owens. “I feel a lot of [education journalism] is really boring and not fun to read.”

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.