Yesterday I characterized The New York Times as “the most important newspaper in the world” and several readers wrote to take exception. But I think it is. When I worked at The White House you’d check it first thing each morning because the content and placement of stories on its front page would drive the day’s news cycle and its opinion pages also set the day’s debates up. I still do. On education what the paper writes, even when it’s not accurate or complete, for instance on charter schools or curriculum narrowing, becomes the CW almost immediately. Just Monday the op-ed page ran a piece about too much summer homework and later that day broadcast journalists were calling around about different angles on the summer homework story. Coincidence? Of course not. I can think of plenty of important newspapers, several that I read daily, but none with that sort of impact every day.
Anyway, because it’s important you probably want to know what’s happening there and if you’re reading this blog you are probably interested in education (or you’re just wasting time on the company’s dime). So this long Q and A with NYT Education Editor Alison Mitchell is worth your time. Best line? The deadpan: “I’d be curious how many of our readers would read a story written all in Latin.” But plenty of other good stuff.
Incidentally, the most salient meta-critique I’ve ever heard of The Times’ education coverage is that they treat it like a welfare state issue rather than a distinct policy realm. That’s been true for a long time and it clouds the coverage. But though it’s still early Mitchell seems a departure from that mindset. In the past this frame of reference has made them susceptible to being hoodwinked by shoddy studies and there Mitchell seems to have a decent BS detector and a good understanding of the scene and the various axes people and institutions are grinding.