The Effect of News Media Coverage on Education

Various studies have explored how news coverage affects different aspects of our daily lives, including government policy and disaster response. However, an area that is yet to be adequately covered is how media coverage of events affects education. To properly understand the role of news coverage in schooling and school reform, we need to examine how the mass media colludes to construct alternative realities. This article discusses how news presentation in mass media platforms affect school reform policies and practices.

Why Does News Coverage in Education Matter?

In the United States and across the world, education is seen as one of the most important issues that require urgent policy and government intervention. While the interest in the quality and access to education keeps growing, there is shockingly little coverage of education issues in the news media in the United States.

According to recent research, of the television, print, radio, and web news sources, only 1.4 percent of news coverage of topics is related to education. Much of this was related to the intersection of education with politics, school finances, and incidents of violence in schools. It means that very little attention has been given to more important issues like school reforms, curricula, and teaching. Therefore, it can be inferred that education coverage of the critical problems in news media is still minimal.  

The question then is, why does it matter how and whether the news media platforms cover education issues? An immediate response would be that effective democratic governance depends, to a large extent, on the informed engagement of the public. It is the role of the press to inform the public on reform and policy issues relating to education.

Is the News Coverage All Negative?

As things stand, the current coverage is not adequately informed by educational research. Concerns have also been raised regarding the biased nature in which news presentation takes on particular issues, emphasizing some views over others.

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However, the effect of news media on education transcends merely informing the public about issues of importance. Media outlets also can shape problems that are seen by the public as urgent and critical. This process of agenda-setting shapes transformational change. Therefore, the news is incredibly successful in telling people what to think about. This power to set agenda on behalf of the public bears a huge responsibility for news media, and should, over time, shape the perception of such important issues as teacher education.

News media can also shape how the public thinks about essential topics. The many unconscious and conscious choices are made during the production of news coverage regarding what to be included and what to be ignored, shaping how consumers of the content interpret events. For instance, over the recent past, there has been a tendency to portray schools as being in a constant state of failure and crisis. Also, there have been negative reports of the use of essay writing and academic dishonesty, painting a dark picture of the future of education. 

The outcome is that most people start seeing the education system as failing, blaming schools for broader structural and social inequities. Such discourses succeed in shaping an approach to education reform that emphasizes choice, privatization, competition, and the accountability of individual teachers rather than systems. In the process, larger social and economic forces that undermine education success, as well as the numerous systemic challenges, like heavy workloads that teachers face, are ignored.

Please note that the effect of news media on education does not exist in a vacuum. The views are shaped by the funding, structure, and standard practices of the journalism profession. There are also biases and agendas of those involved in news editing and presentation, as well as ideologies embedded in the culture of the organizations. Different opposing groups competing to frame reality also fight to influence news presentation. Of course, strong media strategies can play an important role in bringing ignored voices into the mainstream.

The Bottomline | What Is the Impact of News Coverage of Education?

The way news media covers issues relating to education has various implications. For the United States to have a competent educational system, there is a need for adequate funding. New media has a role in shaping whether and how people think regarding the financing of the system.

A common problem with the news media is covering issues that they assume will interest the public instead of highlighting what people need to know. Instead of focusing on processes and personalities, the news media should pay attention to what is actually happening in the education sector and why it is happening. Instead of favoring reports regarding problems in schools, there should be a shift to focusing on student success and inspirational stories

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