CJR 2015 Journalism Roundup Features Big Hits & Misses

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Kudos to the Tampa Bay Times for being mentioned in the Columbia Journalism Review’s Best and worst journalism of 2015: “The project, framed with slick visuals and interactive graphics, is stunning in its totality. The work provides yet more proof of the continued value of beat reporting in an era of cutbacks at local news organizations.”

The positive notice from CJR couldn’t come at a more timely moment, given questions about local investigative reporting that have been raised by the documentary Spotlight and discussed by the NYT ombudsperson here.

 Local news coverage is a great and important thing to have, and investigative work with national scope or implications is the gold standard. But local-level investigative work (like the Chicago Catalyst story that unearthed a $20 million no-bid contract from disgraced former schools superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett) is still pretty scarce even in places like NYC, DC, and LA where there are outlets and news teams dedicated to education coverage.

I think of Chalkbeat, NPR, and the Hechinger Report as more explanatory than investigative — right? — and most local daily news outlets that still have education reporters are scrambling to cover what’s going on rather than looking around on their own.  The LA Times may be an exception, and of course at least occasionally Chicago’s Catalyst and Philadelphia’s Notebook. Any others?

The final segment from the TBT team just came out recently, in case you haven’t seen it yet. Looks pretty amazing. Remember it?

However, the CJR list also includes HBO’s John Oliver, who’s praised for “acts of journalism” including a lengthy segment on standardized testing that I didn’t feel was particularly accurate but was certainly notable for the attention it gave to the issue.

Just this week, the Hechinger Report noted that American kids aren’t nearly as overtested as it may have come to seem, compared to kids in other nations:

“More than a third of 15-year-olds in the Netherlands said they took a standardized test at least once a month. In Israel, more than a fifth said they took a monthly standardized test. In the United States, only 2 percent of students said they took standardized tests this frequently, well below the OECD average of 8 percent.”

But the overtesting story proved unstoppable on social media and was then picked up by mainstream news outlets and eventually by public officials.

Related posts: Oliver Swings (& Misses) Against Standardized TestingFour Pinocchios for Jon Stewart on Education SpendingJon Stewart’s Impact, & John Oliver’s Next MovesHow FLA Reporters Almost Missed That School Resegregation Story;  Steal This School Segregation Story [Visualization]!School Segregation’s Back.

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.