It’s no secret that the newspaper industry is in trouble. Circulation of print editions is way down. Advertising revenue is even further down. And Tribune Co. just declared bankruptcy. The Christian Science Monitor recently announced it would publish only one print edition a week. Nearly every newspaper is struggling to transform itself for an online world where the next generation seeks out its news. The prognosis for newspapers is not good. That’s too bad. I depend on many different newspapers (mostly the online editions) for keeping up to date with higher education. So many different newspapers around the country are constantly reporting on local and regional higher education news and events. Some report on national trends. Both the Chronicle and InsideHigherEd develop many of their articles from news originally reported in metropolitan newspapers. For example the Chronicle recently reported on faculty who were concerned about students using ChaCha’s answer service for cheating. That story first appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer (and the Chronicle’s article referenced it).
But all newspapers are not created equal. When it comes to reporting higher education news some are better than others. In the past it was not uncommon for metropolitan papers to have dedicated reporters for education or possibly just higher education. In today’s environment that would be a luxury for most daily newspapers. However, some daily papers are real standouts when it comes to reporting higher education news. In this post I share some of my top picks for reporting higher education news. My top five are:
The New York Times – Perhaps no surprise here. The NYT consistently delivers articles about higher education, from breaking news about issues such as student loans or the latest trend on campus to more unique stories about special higher education programs or institutions with unique students. Their regular Education Life supplement has no equal.
The Boston Globe – When I’m on the lookout for stories to add over at Kept-Up Academic Librarian I will always take a look at an article from the Boston Globe. This paper provides excellent coverage of the higher education industry in the city of Boston and the state of Massachusetts, but it also is a great source for news about national developments and trends. This paper will have several articles about higher education in any given week. For example, it recently reported on how second-tier IHEs will be pursuing students in China to bolster their enrollment. The Globe is one paper that still has a reporter, Tracy Jan, who follows the higher education beat.
USA Today – Some of you may not equate this paper with stellar reporting but it certainly does a good job of staying on top of trends in higher education. USA Today may also be the front runner when it comes to offering a series of stories on a particular trend in higher education, and it occasionally offers some pretty decent investigative reporting. For example, USA Today recently examined institutions that improve their athletes GPAs and graduation rates by putting them into special majors populated largely with easy courses that provide the athletes with no marketable skills.
Philadelphia Inquirer – While its higher education reporting is not as strong as the above papers I think my local paper has definitely improved its higher education reporting over the last few years, especially since they eliminated their education beat reporter a few years ago. Sure, this paper tends to have a more regional focus, but occasionally it will report on a trend I haven’t seen reported elsewhere. Or it might have a series of reports that is supplemented with a variety of multimedia. One such example is a recent series about high school seniors and their college application experience.
Washington Post – The Post has been a consistent performer over the years although I have noticed a decline in the number of higher education articles being reported in the last year or so. But like the NYT, the quality of the reporting is always high, and the Post may be the best at reporting on how higher education is faring on Capitol Hill. The Post is perhaps the only other paper besides the NYT that has a higher education supplement for higher education, and their education columnist Jay Matthews will occasionally focus on higher education.
So those are my favorites. You may disagree with some of my choices. There’s no question that a few other papers also do a good job of reporting about higher education. The Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the Christian Science Monitor are all quite good. Even the Wall Street Journal has turned into a pretty good source for higher education news since making more of its content freely accessible. If there is any one concern I have about the ongoing availability of higher education newspaper content it is that more papers may choose to allow only their subscribers to reach full-text articles. Let’s hope the trend is towards more access to full text. But just to be on the safe side, when you find a good article you will want to visit again, consider saving it to something like FURL just for safe keeping.
If you are a regular reader of the Chronicle and InsideHigherEd that’s a good way to keep up with what’s going on in higher education – and as academic librarians shouldn’t we be well informed about the news of the day for the industry in which we are employed. Just paying attention to what’s going on at your campus without putting it into perspective of the larger picture may simply leave you with too narrow a vision of where academic librarianship fits into the overall higher education enterprise. As it was so well stated in the introduction to the recent CLIR report No Brief Candle: Reconceiving the Academic Library for the 21st Century “the future of the research library cannot be considered apart from the future of the academy as a whole.” Fortunately there are some excellent resources beyond the Chronicle and InsideHigherEd that can help you develop a regular feed of news and information about higher education developments at the national, regional and local levels.