Trying To Understand Coverage Of Clinton’s Charter School Critique

I don’t know whether it was blogger Diane Ravitch (Hillary Clinton Speaks Up About Charter Schools) or Valerie Strauss (Hillary Clinton: Most charter schools ‘don’t take the hardest-to-teach kids, or, if they do, they don’t keep them’) who posted first about Hillary Clinton’s critical comments on charters — the Washington Post doesn’t timestamp its stories. But both bloggers posted stories about the event sometime on Sunday November 8th. 

Readers didn’t get anything from Politics K-12’s Alyson Klein until 5 Monday (What Did Hillary Clinton Really Mean on Charter Schools?), and this post from Politico’s Kimberly Hefling (Hillary Clinton rebukes charter schools) didn’t go up until 7 Monday night (though it did get mentioned in Politico’s morning tipsheet).

[Neither Politico nor Politics K-12 credited Strauss or Ravitch or anyone else for surfacing the story — but that’s another topic.]

There was nothing from the WSJ, NYT, AP, or even — until this morning — the Washington Post.

It seems clear to me at this point that coverage of breaking news — the traditional media function of finding and reporting out information as soon as it happens — is a weak spot in the current education media ecosphere, or at least is going through some sort of transition or rethinking.

Whether education news outlets should focus much attention on breaking news coverage in this age of social media is a question that’s much-discussed among journalism types these days. Why spend time and money breaking news or covering it when everybody’s already getting it on Facebook or Twitter?

It’s also possible that these outlets considered the issue and decided that the Clinton comments didn’t warrant immediate coverage, based on its lack of obvious notability or significance. There’s an argument to be made that not everything Hillary Clinton says about education is newsworthy — that the strong reaction among advocates on Monday was the story, not the comments themselves. 

[I asked editors and reporters at several major news outlets to talk to me about their decisionmaking process on this story and will let you know if and when I get anything back from them.]

“For decades, Hillary Clinton has been a strong supporter of both public charter schools and an unflinching advocate for traditional public schools, their teachers and their students,” her spokesman Jesse Ferguson said, when asked to explain the comments she made Sunday. Clinton “wants to be sure that public charter schools, like traditional public schools, serve all students and do not discriminate against students with disabilities or behavioral challenges.”

It’s not much, but a quote from the campaign is more than all the reactions, back-reporting, and tea-leaf reading I’ve been seeing. It moves the story along a bit, and indicates an effort to get information from the campaign itself rather than from observers.

Related posts: Duncan/King: So Much Coverage – But Key Details Still MissingDid Seattle Strike Catch Education Outlets By Surprise?Opposition Underplayed In Last Week’s Test Reducation Announcement.

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.