by Dr. Terry Stoops
Former Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
Rick Hess and Brendan Bell discuss bias in mainstream media coverage of education matters. They write,
We searched news articles, while avoiding opinion pieces, in the New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, and in four widely-read, education-specific outlets (The 74, Chalkbeat, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and Education Week). We surveyed the period from Thanksgiving, when these deliberations kicked into high gear, through January. We included news stories which had at least one paragraph dedicated to the tax bill’s education provisions or the HEA [Higher Education Act].
The results were not reassuring. On the tax bill, five of the ten mainstream press stories featured a headline with an obvious slant against the Republican tax plan, while just one Journal story carried an obviously favorable headline (disconcertingly, less than half the articles carried an impartial headline). When one read a news story’s lead paragraph and framing, again, five stories were cleared negative and just one Journal story was favorable.
They found similar bias in stories addressing the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. They conclude, “If, on the other hand, one believes these are thorny issues which feature legitimate arguments on both sides, then this kind of reporting is irresponsible, a recipe for undermining reasoned discourse, and a guarantee that conservatives will see the mainstream media as slanted and unreliable.”