The Strange Off-Balance State Of Local Investigative Journalism About Schools

Alexander Russo:

and journalism experts for their thoughts on (a) whether there has been a real decline in investigative work on local education coverage and (b) reasons why (beyond the obvious). I’ll let you know whatever responses I get.

In the meantime, it’s my impression that there have been some amazing examples of local investigative journalism about education, like the Tampa Bay Times series about the re-segregation of some schools in Florida’s Pinellas County (recently recognized by CJR as one of the best stories of the year), or Catalyst Chicago’s look into the infamous $20 million SUPES contract that led to the downfall of Barbara Byrd-Bennett. The LA Times’ Howard Blume unearthed the plan to expand charter schools in LA not too long ago.

There’s also been a bit of growth in local coverage thanks to a few outlets like ChalkBeat, and national coverage via EdWeek, Hechinger, and the mainstream outlets.

But either by intention or lack of sufficient resources, most of these outlets don’t seem particularly investigative in their focus — they’re usually covering events and announcements or telling sometimes amazing stories about schools and programs. The recent Baltimore Sun series on immigrant students was amazing and revealing but not particularly investigative in its focus. Ditto for the recent Hechinger Report series. Even The Seventy Four, which I had thought/hoped would be deeply investigative in its approach (along the lines of VICE or Al Jazeera), seems to have focused more on explainers and interviews.