Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Countering Cynicism

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

Countering Cynicism

Article excerpt

Last April, Washington Post columnist David Broder told an audience at the University of Minnesota that public affairs reporting is in "a fair amount of trouble these days." For educators, Broder's words are not news.

According to The Murphy Reporter, a publication of the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Broder blamed the troubled state of public affairs reporting on three factors: the use of anonymous sources, a too-cozy relationship between journalists and politicians, and "some of the experiments being conducted" that take the notion of civic journalism too far - to the point of "trying to organize the public agenda and engineer . . . agreement on what should be done."

More specifically, Broder decried the cynicism of professional journalists - "especially in this time of public, disbelief and distrust in public institutions." Professional journalists, Broder said, "shouldn't be worried about a positive story."

But, where education is concerned, they have been worried about positive information for a long time. Writing in the July 26 issue of CQ Researcher, a publication of Congressional Quarterly, Inc., Charles Clark pointed out that "hardly a week goes by without newspaper reports of illiterate high school graduates, 'plummeting' test scores, or guns being found in student lockers. The view that public schools are 'failing' has become routine rhetoric among politicians."

Chalk it up to journalistic cynicism - which, according to Broder, is quite different from journalistic skepticism, "the instinct to compare one statement with another, to check statements against actions or versions of events against each other." Clearly, the schools of this nation and the educators who work in them need far less journalistic cynicism and far more journalistic skepticism. …

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