There’s been a lot of informal discussion over the past month about how education reporters should cover schools with greater cultural sensitivity and awareness of their own biases — and lots more to come. (This includes a new EWA task force on diversity and inclusiveness, and an essay from Mother Jones’ Kristina Rizga.)

However, since there’s no rest for education reporters out there trying to cover schools this fall and winter — and concerns about unconscious racial bias are frequently in the news — here’s a roundup of articles, clips, and reports about journalism and racial awareness that education reporters and editors might find immediately useful:

ONE: The Aspen Institute published a report and article titled How the Media Should Cover Racial Inequality that you might find interesting, though not specifically focused on education issues. This seems to be part of the Institute’s B-12 Journalism & Race Initiative, which is described as an “intensive infusion of background knowledge and practical information into the field of journalism in a concerted effort to improve coverage of race and structural racism.”

Among the key recommendations are: Dig deeper than the numbers, don’t just focus on the negative and explore white privilege: “Shift your lens and examine how white communities often have the advantage in gaining access to capital, power, and admission to exclusive institutions. What implications does this have for people of color?”

TWO: The Society of Professional Journalists also has a Diversity Toolbox, which starts out noting that “reporters who understand the world solely through the prism of race not only limit their vision, but also often misinterpret what they are seeing.” Some specific words of advice from NYU journalism professor Yanick Rice Lamb, who recommends that reporters become public and explicit about your desire “to cast a wider net to truly reflect the community and the country.

Another good bit of advice from Lamb is to “ask everyday folks what they think. And don’t assume that ‘leaders’ speak for everyone or that a group is monolithic.”

THREE: The Education Writers Association conducted a panel on Covering Education With Cultural Sensitivity last spring at the EWA conference in Boston, featuring AP’s Jesse Holland and Politico’s Kimberly Hefling and Mother Jones’ Kristina Rizga.

According to the writeup of the event, “One of Holland’s biggest criticisms of education coverage of racial issues in the news media is the “savior narrative” — the idea that a white teacher comes into a predominantly minority neighborhood and all of a sudden, things get better. He said he doesn’t often see newspapers or TV broadcasts describe the face of the change as a teacher of color.”

FOUR: You should also check out this interview with Rizga from earlier in the year, in which she talks about Reporting in High-Poverty Black and Latino Schools With Cultural Literacy. Go to the 4:45 mark to find the interview, conducted by the Equity Reporting Project’s Jon Funabiki.

As you will see, Rizga passes along some interesting pieces of advice, such as a recommendation from a veteran classroom teacher who told her to “make sure that you also pay attention to what [students] actually produce in the classroom. Look at the actual work they produce every day.”


Video snippet from the Yale teacher bias study.

FIVE: The 2016 EWA Boston event also included a panel on The Complexity of Covering School Segregation, featuring panelists R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Richard Kahlenberg, and Chris Stewart.  According to the writeup of the event, Lewis-McCoy cautioned reporters against the assumption that integrated schools are equitable: In a followup interview, Lewis-McCoy elaborated on his views about media coverage of diverse communities not including enough of the voices of those most directly affected.

SIX: In a short video posted by Media Matters for America, NYT reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones described about how Lack Of Diversity Skews School Coverage, in which she recommends (among other things) “What’s important is to say, ‘I know I’m coming from this perspective , how do I mitigate that with my reporting to make sure that it’s fair?’”

SEVEN: Last and perhaps least, here’s a super-simplistic checklist for education reporters to keep in mind, based on what I’ve learned writing, reading, and talking to journalists about education coverage:

Which of these seven resources is most useful? Which if any is wrong-headed or problematic? What’s missing?

Related posts from THE GRADE
“Feel-Good” School Story Highlights Concerns About Racial Blind Spots
Lessons from Three Years Covering School Turnarounds and Racial Segregation
Black/Hispanic Conference Highlights Need for EdJourn Of Color
New EdBeat Survey Reveals Diversity & Independence Challenges
Just How White Is Education Journalism?
Long-Term Trends In Education Journalism, Plus #EdJournalismSoWhite
White Reporters & Students Of Color

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