The shrinking news hole for education

It should come as no surprise to those of us in higher ed PR who try to get media attention for our institutions, but now it’s official: according to a new report from the Brookings Institution, the traditional news media pays scant attention to education.

Education coverage makes up just 1.4 percent of news covered on a national level, according to the report. And most of that coverage has little to do with learning.

Oddly enough, the amount of coverage in 2009 was an increase over the past two years (0.7 percent in 2008 and 1 percent in 2007.) “This makes it difficult for the public to follow the issues at stake in our education debates and to understand how to improve school performance,” the Brookings report concludes.

Brookings conducted an analysis of national media coverage of education in newspapers, news Web sites, network and cable television and radio during the first nine months of 2009. As CASE points out in its summary of the report, the researchers “found that newspapers and radio stations placed more emphasis on stories related to school finance and budget cutbacks, network television to stories on H1N1 flu or health issues, cable to politics in education, and online sites to education reform.”

I guess those of us in higher ed should be thankful that we get the lion’s share of the coverage. Twenty-seven percent of that national media coverage pertains to colleges and universities. Community colleges don’t fare so well, earning just one-tenth of the coverage four-year institutions receive — a 2.9 percent slice of education coverage overall.

The Brookings report offers several suggestions for improving the amount and quality of news coverage of education. Topping the list is a commitment by educational institutions to make communication with the news media a priority. Hey, that’s one of the reasons we’re in this business, right?


Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

4 thoughts on “The shrinking news hole for education”

  1. I find it surprising that Community Colleges don’t get so much coverage. This year it seems like they are receiving more coverage though, due to Obama’s administration focus on community college education. Also because a majority of the community colleges seem to be posting record enrollment numbers this year. Great post!

  2. This certainly rings true here in Ky, particularly in regard to print. We have two major papers – one Gannett and one McClatchy. They’ve both been hit hard by downsizing, furloughs, budget cuts, etc. Each has a pretty good higher ed reporter (and I’m lucky that I’ve developed fairly good relationships with those two). From a state-level perspective they do a pretty good job covering the major issues (heavy on budget issues and politics of higher ed). Unfortunately for higher ed, there are only the two of them and they are often called on to cover other things (the legislature, nonprofit management scandals, major academic grant scandals, K12 issues, etc). There’s just not much coverage of the great human interest and academic stories that every campus has, period.

    But you (and the Brookings report) are right, we have to do a better job communicating with the media and helping them see trends and make connections. Don’t just feed them blanket press releases. Be honest with them. Find out what their interests are and point them to resources and sources. Help them find the good stories, even when it isn’t directly about your school. And so on….

    Again, nice post. Rattled on more than I meant to here, but the last thing I’ll say is this: small local papers (dailies and weeklies) are a bright spot for higher ed coverage outside of major metro areas.

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