How education companies can support the work of journalists
The education industry is in a constant state of change – and that was only amplified by the pandemic. In a recent CB&A Expert Series event, we hosted a media roundtable, where journalists discussed EWA’s State of the Education Beat 2021 Report, the role of journalism in a pandemic, what stories are on journalists’ radars and how vendors can support rigorous, high-quality education reporting.
View the webinar: Media Roundtable: State of the Education Beat
Our panelists included:
- Scott Jaschik, CEO and Editor at Inside Higher Ed
- Kanoe Namahoe, Editorial Director, Education and Business Services at SmartBrief
- Wayne D’Orio, Freelancer Editor and Writer
- Kara Arundel, K-12 Education Reporter at Industry Dive
Here are three ways education companies can support the work of education reporters.
Tip #1: Provide reliable sources and information
To beat fake news, education journalists need access to reliable sources and information. Providing insights into real-world challenges, scenarios and trends is highly recommended. Journalists want details that will help them plan and tell an accurate story.
47 percent of journalists think the issue of fake news and information is a major problem for education journalism today. (EWA, State of the Education Beat 2021)
Our panelists shared the importance of pitching news and stories that are based in truth:
- “Yes, fake news and misinformation is a problem in education journalism – although you wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell by what we publish. I believe when things seem like they might be fake news, you have to do individual reporting; I wouldn’t want somebody to report another take on a story until we know that it’s real.” –Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed
- “The pitches I appreciate most are on timely issues, but also include real-life examples from school districts and education institutions.” –Kara Arundel, Industry Dive
- “We’re interested in sources and information that tie into trends or studies, and give us an angle into telling a bigger story.” –Wayne D’Orio, Freelancer Editor and Writer
- “Approach your pitch through the lens of an idea, not through the marketing lens.” –Kanoe Namahoe, SmartBrief
Tip #2: Support stories that matter
The topics and audience of each education outlet varies; the stories and sources education companies share with journalists must take this into account.
“I’m native Hawaiian, so I naturally try to seek out stories about the successes and challenges of Polynesian student groups. I think we have to make a concerted effort, no matter what color you are, to tell the stories of the voices that are unheard.” –Kanoe Namahoe, SmartBrief
It’s important that the stories being pitched to an education journalist are linked to a central idea or theme that their outlet covers. D’Orio shared an example of his process for writing a story, which includes finding a topic he’s passionate about and interested in covering, conducting research and then working to connect with sources who can help to fill in the gaps.
“A couple of years ago there were studies [circulating] saying that students of color performed better when they were taught by educators of color. I thought, ‘that’s interesting’, let’s find out which districts are doing it best and closing the gap. I reached out to contacts I had at school districts and PR firms, and after a few preliminary interviews, had to switch the angle to who is doing it worst. If you can find a way to fit into this kind of writing process, that’s most helpful.” –Wayne D’Orio, Freelancer Editor and Writer
Journalists are interested in different perspectives. Education companies should go beyond offering corporate spokespeople as sources, and share a diverse mix of educators, students and researchers whenever possible.
61 percent of journalists ranked equity/poverty/inequality, funding for education and college costs/student debt as the top three topics that will be most important for education journalists to cover over the next two years. (EWA, State of the Education Beat 2021)
“Equity is a big story thread that can be woven into stories about education funding, or student wellbeing. It’s always there; I’m looking for solution-based stories that can profile those efforts for more equitable practices. I’d also add early childhood education as an important topic.” –Kara Arundel, Industry Dive
Tip #3: Pitch ideas, not products
Product news has its place, but most education reporters are more interested in telling compelling, real-world stories. “It’s not about issuing a press release; it’s about an idea,” Jaschik explained. The marketing or sales goal should not be the foundation of your pitch. Rather, a pitch should make a connection between an angle and a current event, trend or interest.
“As a freelancer, it’s a little bit different, right? I don’t feel like I’m on the beat, and there are things I have to cover. So I have a little bit more freedom. But I find that even going back to programs that have existed for a long time, and giving them a fresh look, can be very interesting.” –Wayne D’Orio, Freelancer Editor and Writer
Education companies should focus on connecting how a school, district or higher ed institution is using their product or service to make a difference in the lives of students and educators.
“It’s hard for some corporate spokespeople to get around this idea, and the reality may be that some publications want their news announcements, but education journalists generally don’t. If you’re an edtech company, and you have a service you believe is really changing things, don’t just tell us; introduce us to your customers who can talk freely.” –Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed
Education reporting also helps bring attention to important trends and stories in the industry. Companies can support this by offering to connect journalists with reliable sources and remaining open to discussing challenging topics.
A majority (16 percent) of journalists believe equity/poverty/inequality is the most under-covered issue in education today. (EWA, State of the Education Beat 2021)
“Be open to discussing the hard topics, even if you’re struggling with an issue, talk about how you’re working towards a solution. Having your community understand that journey is so helpful.” –Kara Arundel, Industry Dive
The importance of education journalism
Over the past 12 months, journalists have been tasked with reporting on a flood of breaking news surrounding COVID-19, as well as equity and racial disparities. At the same time, they have also produced content about curriculum, education technology and leadership. Education companies can use the advice outlined in this post to support rigorous, high-quality reporting.
If you enjoyed this blog, check out our post on Journalism Advocacy: 5 Ways to Support Journalists.