Job Well Done

Apart from Pulitzer Prizes and such, reporters seldom get much credit.

In general, those they cover in a positive light still think the journalist didn’t tell the full story. Of course, those on the receiving end of a tough article, forever accuse the reporter of all types of malfeasance. And then there are those of us in the chattering class who always seem to think the reporter should’ve taken a different approach, ferreted out other issues, and included other voices (typically ours).

I guess this is the price journalists pay for having such significant power (and, in the eyes of detractors, too little accountability). As Mark Twain said, never pick a fight with those who buy ink by the barrel (yes, it’s dated, but you get the gist!).

I like the work of lots of education reporters, and I should probably praise some of them more. But it always feels a bit icky to say nice things about folks who might want to use you as a source. Reporters’ credibility could be challenged if they rely on those who butter them up.

But I’d like to take this chance to express my appreciation for the great work over many years by Michele McNeil of Education Week and Politics K–12. Michele has covered some of the most interesting issues, and she’s always done it smartly and thoroughly.

Some ambitious journalists view it as their duty to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, taking it upon themselves to do the public good by assuming the worst of intentions of those in power. Indeed, this can be a path recognition and promotion.

But this tendentious approach often has the effect of producing heat instead of light, putting politics over policy, and promoting sales (or tweets) instead over facts and analysis.

Michele always seemed determined to report the news, not make herself the lead story. I relied on her articles, and I’m going to miss them.

Friday was her last day at Ed Week; she’s taking a job with the College Board. I wish her the very best, and I fully intend to nag David Coleman into letting Michele blog, report, tweet, or utilize some other form of public communication. The field will be a little worse off without her voice.

-Andy Smarick

This first appeared on the Fordham Institute’s Flypaper blog.

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