| American Enterprise Institute
Major Media Plays Favorites in Coverage of Education Policy
- We compare press coverage of 2017–18 Republican education policy proposals with coverage of 2009 Democratic proposals.
- The mainstream media was strikingly more skeptical of Republican education proposals than of Democratic proposals. The education-specific media maintained greater impartiality.
- In 2017–18, mainstream media coverage of Republican-led education proposals displayed a negative lean in 45 percent of stories. In 2009, mainstream media coverage of Democratic proposals leaned negative in less than 5 percent of stories.
- Education-specific media coverage displayed more consistency across years, as 25 percent of 2017–18 articles leaned against Republican proposals, while about 13 percent of 2009 pieces were critical of Democratic proposals.
In an era rife with heated debates about “fake news” and the role that reporters play in safeguarding democracy, it is a propitious time for news coverage to be self-evidently fair-minded. In this analysis, weexamine the impartiality of media coverage in the area we know best: education policy.
Both Democrats and Republicans have proposed ambitious reforms to K–12 and higher education inrecent years. In late 2017 and early 2018, a Republican president and Congress pursued a tax bill with provisions that had significant implications for education. In that same period, Republicans also issued a series of proposals for reshaping the Higher Education Act (HEA).
In an uncanny bit of parallelism, a little less than a decade ago during the first year of the Obama administration, a Democratic president and Congress put forward major education proposals of their own—most notably the education-related provisions of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including the heralded Race to the Top program.
In both cases, a single party held power in both Congress and the White House, and in both instancesthe party proposed major education-related reforms during its first year in office. These two moments provide a useful scenario to examine the degree to which major media coverage of education isevenhanded.