Friday, October 29, 2010


More Homework Needed

WORDmeister sez: Waiting for Superman, the new movie about public education by David Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), has many people wailing over the "school crisis." But how much substance behind the breast-beating?

“[Waiting for Superman] has captured the credulous attention of veteran broadcast anchors and national columnists. These are not pundits often found wandering among the tangled weeds of education policy. Some appear to be using Superman as their crash course in the subject, emerging from the theatre with a story line in hand and a fire in their belly—no questions asked. . . .

“[T]he media’s coverage of education issues remains less than inspiring. In a Wall Street Journal article, Rupert Murdoch actually suggested that we might turn to American Idol for inspiration. It has higher performance standards for pop stars, he said, than educators do for public-school children.

“To be honest, nobody has zeroed in more sharply on the emptiness of such coverage than comedian Lewis Black on The Daily Show. ‘Ah, fall,’ he intoned in a recent segment. ‘That magical time when we spend one or two weeks pretending we’re actually going to do something about the condition of our schools.’ He then cut to a clip of David Gregory, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, providing his own DIY recipe for school reform: ‘If you drive by a public school, even if your kids don't go there, walk in, and ask what you can do to help.’

“It’s enough to make me cry.”

—LynNell Hancock, journalist, author and professor, “Waiting for Substance: A high-profile documentary shortchanges the education debate,” Columbia Journalism Review, Oct. 27, 2010.

Editorial Comment: Too much dodge-ball at recess?

Today’s Extra: Follow-up: See The Logan Herald Journal for a debriefing on last week's screening of 8: The Mormon Proposition by filmmaker Reed Cowan .

PeezPix: Dog Beach—Sadie says, Wish we were here. Woof.

JCOM News Note:
NPR foreign correspondent ANNE GARRELS comes to Utah State next week for class meetings and to deliver a Morris Media & Society Lecture: “Bearing Witness—One journalist’s take on covering the world.” Garrels comes to USU fresh from several weeks in Russia. When the U.S. “shock and awe” bombing started in Baghdad, Garrels was one of 16 U.S. journalists who stayed to cover the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein. Her 2003 book, Naked in Baghdad, tells that story. Over three decades, Garrels has been in Russia, China, the Middle East and elsewhere in war and peace to bear witness and tell the rest of us what she has seen. JCOM student session Wednesday 11/3, 2:30 p.m. AnSc 303. Public speech Thursday, 11/4, 2-3:15 p.m., USU Performance Hall. Free & open to everyone.

JCOM @ USU is hiring. A search for a new tenure-track faculty member to focus on the teaching of writing. Revolutionary! See job posting at Utah State University HR or email

NOTE: Today’s WORD on Journalism is now on Facebook! Join up and rant daily! And join USU JCOM Alumni & Friends on FB.
• • •


  1. Hi Ted,
    I haven't seen the movie and I'm not all that interested in seeing it. All politics are local, and so is education, as far as I can see. My hobby horse is writing instruction because I think it encompasses so much, particularly critical thinking...and the quality of writing instruction in my children's public school has been abysmal. I did walk in and offer to help....

  2. Too few journalists have the accounting knowledge necessary to process, much less accurately report, financial information about any governmental program. I have read articles written by journalists who did not know the difference between budgets, balance sheets, and income-expenditure statements -- and used figures interchangeably. I have read articles by journalists who had not taken the time to read through the procedures manuals governing bids, contracts, and other steps in the procurement process -- and it shows up in generalizations, innuendo, and faulty logic. Nor do most news organizations want to dig into what happens after a policy is approved -- how does that policy get implemented? You'd be surprised . . . .