It’s a frequent complaint in education journalism: Reporters should spend less time at school board meetings and get into a classroom to find out what’s really going on.
For reporters, though, that’s a challenge and a risk, because lots of good journalists don’t know what to look for in a busy classroom. How do you know if what you’re seeing is “good” or not? After all, reporters aren’t professional educators. And they’re often under deadline.
Sometimes, this can even backfire — when a quick visit to add “color” to a story leads to shortcuts or hasty conclusions. What if a reporter shows up without knowing, for instance, that a fire drill that morning completely distracted the students and got them all excited? Or that 12th-graders in the period right after lunch are way more boisterous and engaged than the sleep-deprived zombies that stumble into 8 a.m. homeroom?