For two centuries, until the early 90’s, Encyclopedia Britannica was a prime resource for information and learning. The thick hardback books epitomized what it means to be “offline,” and search engine optimization was limited to alphabetizing words and phrases by syllable. Then everything changed. Computers introduced online-assisted research sites like LexisNexis and the web gifted us with search engines (remember Excite and Magellan?). Digital disruption played out to the near demise of the encyclopedia library, which was forced to evolve and now ranks among the 164 million results of a Google search for “educational resources” (albeit not even within the first five pages).
Similarly, as today’s news business is digitally disrupted, the education news landscape is transforming. According to a recent story from Education Week, over the past two years the industry has been experiencing an explosion of online news outlets reporting on education. Some major news organizations have supplemented their online channels with education-focused sites, such as NPR and The Atlantic magazine. Countless blogs are bubbling up, many from educators themselves, and others from influencers in the field; Flypaper blog from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and Diane Ravitch, an education historian, is just one example. The variation in funding status and business models is matched by the diversity of coverage. Both national and local sites are honing in on the subject exclusively, while general consumer-interest sites are assigning education beat reporters and/or incorporating K-12 issues into their journalism.
“There are far more places now that are doing serious, long-form education reporting,” said Ms. Hancock, who directs the Spencer Fellowship Program for midcareer education journalists and who covered education for Newsweek. “And there are more places for reporters to do this kind of work than ever before.”
The EdWeek article raises a great question though: Is more better?
As PR professionals, sure, this rise in education news sites gives us even more opportunity to land our stories. But for those of us who are committed to building relationships with journalists, and not just peppering them with press releases and pitch letters, this also means more investigating to get the right story in front of the right audience. We must discern the credible from the careless. We have to dig to identify the most appropriate media contacts and then research what and how they’re covering relevant news. Based on this research, we have to package and deliver our information in a way that meets each individual’s needs. Timeliness also remains a key factor. When do we engage with an influential educator who is running a high profile blog after school hours versus the education beat reporter at the fast-paced national daily newspaper?
Even if we do our jobs properly, will we reach our intended audiences through a voice that is trusted, or one that will get lost? Similar to the way digital disruption nearly destroyed Encyclopedia Britannica, is the surge in online education news sites bound to be the demise of quality specialized reporting?
What do you think? Is more better?