Alexander Russo asks “We Need More Teacher Union Coverage — Right?” after he listened to the laments of New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse about the demise of the union beat.
It’s strange that Greenhouse had a better sense in 1992 of where organized labor was headed than he does today, but mainstream coverage follows demand, and with only about 1 in every 9 employees belonging to a union, it is painfully obvious that labor is a niche beat. This makes education labor an even smaller niche beat.
There are many education reporters who do a fine job covering the teachers’ unions, but they are still education reporters. No one trained them in labor issues. Although this blog is devoted to inside information about teachers’ unions, much of my time is spent explaining the fundamentals of union operations and finances to those without knowledge of them. In the last 17 years, I probably have spent more time describing the UniServ program to reporters than NEA has. I ought to get a commission.
So my answer to Alexander’s question is a qualified yes, we do need more teacher union coverage. But what we really need are more individuals willing to choose a segment of the education beat and delve one yard below. We could use someone who writes exclusively about textbooks – the adoption process, the companies, the decision-makers, and the contents. How about someone who follows the professional development industry? I once did a series of stories about the National School Public Relations Association that was very well received. Where is the blogger who tears the veil off of school district PR strategies?
We have 12,000 people writing about Common Core, most of it the same as the next piece, but no one writing about the travails and/or foibles of school superintendents.
So this is my recruitment pitch: It’s easier to stand out if you’re not surrounded by everyone else. Pick something with low coverage and cover it. If you decide it should be teachers’ unions, I honestly wish you the best. I’m not going to live forever.