The Case For Reacting Calmly To Media Coverage

image from tulane.edu

When I had the chance to interview Tulane’s Doug Harris (pictured above) last month, Andrea Gabor’s  NYT oped about NOLA had not yet come out. But I was surprised to find out that he was not as concerned about some of the articles that had already come out about New Orleans, such as Jennifer Berkshire’s somewhat controversial Salon piece.

“With the exception of how it characterized our conference as “preordained,” I think it summarizes the power and process concerns fairly well,” he told me. 

“Until the latest outcomes were released, the reform community thought we were out to get them,” said Harris. “Then it switched, then student outcome results, reformers started to like us and anti-reformers thought we were in the can.” 

He also noted that nearly everyone interviewed in the Salon piece was a collaborator or Advisory Board member. “This just reinforces that the results weren’t preordained.”

But the debate over the interpretation of test score gains is just “a predictable reaction” for advocates and critics who have opposing views about the use of testing to measure schools — part of a “broader philosophical debate,” according to Harris.

Harris looks at the latest scores as laudable despite their low levels. “The only way to get form an F to an A is to pass through C.” But he claims not to be mystified or bothered by other reactions. “People want to see good news for their side; there’s nothing new or surprising in that.”

This is a point worth reflecting on. Some folks tend to go ballistic when coverage doesn’t go their way — and aren’t shy about saying so (privately or otherwise). But it doesn’t have to be that way. There’s a case to made for ignoring or at least taking media coverage with a grain of salt even when it doesn’t please. One reason is the notion that everyone has to take his or her lumps. Another is that media coverage isn’t nearly as influential as you (and I) may think. Last but not least is the idea that bringing attention to unflattering coverage may serve purposes other than your own.

Related posts: Tulane Report Gives New Orleans High MarksNOLA Education Coverage Diverges SharplyNuance & Complexity In Education WritingThree Reasons Why the New NOLA Report Isn’t Getting Covered Nationally (Yet)

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.