Re-Imagining Education Journalism

Executive Summary

Education journalism is going through a gut-wrenching transformation of its business model and its organizational structure, even as the ways in which news is delivered are changing rapidly. Old business models have collapsed, and new ones are struggling to find their footing. Digital technologies have fundamentally altered the way news is delivered. People are accessing information through Kindles, iPads, mobile devices, laptops, RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, and desktop computers. Much of the content consumers once paid for when it was delivered on paper is available for little or nothing in digital form. The result is a media ecosystem that is dramatically different from earlier eras.

In trying to imagine ways of improving and expanding the coverage of education, we have canvassed the views of leaders in the field and conducted case studies of specific ventures. This paper summarizes new trends in education coverage and how major news organizations are re-imagining their futures. It outlines the development of niche publications, news aggregators, social media, and new content providers. We also look at alternative business models, including subsidized content, for-profit models, and indirect public subsidies.

We conclude that while education journalism faces great challenges, it is transforming into a new digital form that looks and behaves differently than the models to which we’re accustomed. It has clear strengths, including immediacy, interactivity, and diversity. But these virtues must be linked more effectively to the delivery of an old-fashioned product, namely in-depth substantive reporting. We also note the enduring importance of what remains the most important source of education news for millions of our citizens, the “old” media. The key challenge for national leaders is to build on strengths of new media platforms, while finding ways to develop high-quality coverage that is crucial for democratic governance.