Last Friday, more than two dozen education reporters, school public information officers (PIOs), communications professionals, school administrators, and State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice spent the morning at the Hoover Public Library discussing how folks talk about education in Alabama.
I’m still trying to digest all that I heard, but I took a direct, concrete action as a result of that discourse. Keep reading to find out what that action is.
During the discussion, PIOs expressed rightful frustration with the lack of attention the media pays to the everyday, extraordinary efforts of teachers and students in Alabama’s 1,500+ schools.
In short, the PIOs said the public is often left with an image of schools that just doesn’t paint the whole picture.
We talked about how editors and publishers and producers rightfully are charged with producing information that the public needs…and chooses to read.
We mourned the loss of so many fine education reporters in the ever-shrinking newsrooms….in television, print, and radio.
We lamented the loss of the “education beat” in newsrooms across the state.
We bemoaned the inability of school districts to fund communications positions to bridge gaps between journalists and school administrators.
And we admitted that a large part of the challenge in sharing information about our public schools lies in the definition of what is newsworthy.
— Dan Carsen (@WBHMEdDesk) January 30, 2015
Newsworthiness: There’s the Rub
One message was loud and clear from school PIOs: there is not enough media coverage about the good stuff going on in our schools.
While school PIOs have access to share their messages with those connected to their school districts, the general public still looks to the media for information about our schools and the children engaged in public education.
The newsworthiness of a story is what determines what gets written, recorded, published, and broadcast to the general public by the media. And those editors and publishers and producers determine what is newsworthy and therefore what gets shared with the larger public.
So Here’s a Way to Read the Good Stuff
In an effort to counter this perceived lack of agreement between PIOs and the media, many school districts now use social media to distribute items of interest and celebration to the public. And many of those districts have Twitter accounts through which they share these bits and pieces of good stuff happening throughout the school day.
I put together a list of these accounts nearly a year ago, and I follow the items as carefully as possible. School districts are using Twitter much more often than they were this time last year.
Reflecting on the concerns of the PIOs, it hit me that those Twitter accounts are full of the good stuff, but if you’re not on Twitter (and 77% of Americans are not on Twitter), you can’t access that good stuff.
So for all of you folks who’d like access to the good stuff, but aren’t on Twitter, look over there, to your right ————>> in the sidebar.
Look for the heading that says “School Tweets Direct from Twitter” (right below the Alabama School Connection Twitter feed).
THAT is where you’ll find the good stuff….plenty of it. Even if you’re not on Twitter, you can click on any of the tweets in the feed.
Truth be told, there are times during the course of nearly every day, that I scroll through that list (via a column on TweetDeck) and look at all of the faces and read all of the good things happening. Sure it’s good old-fashioned public relations for the district. But it is the truth….that stuff really is happening.
With public support of the institution of public education hitting an all-time low according to June 2014 Gallup survey (only 26% of Americans had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in public schools as an institution), the public’s discussion of public schools has become crucial to its survival. [It is worth noting that the news business had lower rankings than public education did…click that link for more detail.]
So make sure your daily diet of public school news has a healthy portion of the good stuff and the stuff that is considered newsworthy by visiting the Twitter feed of the folks working in our schools every day.
If your official school Twitter feed isn’t included, please email me at asc(at)alabamaschoolconnection.org to be added to list or tag me — @alschoolconnect — and I’ll add you to the list!