If educators have a consistent gripe, it’s that we don’t recognize our schools or ourselves in the news coverage we receive.

We know that the vast majority of our schools are safe, well-managed, and high achieving. Yet each day we’re bombarded with words and pictures to the contrary. Some fear–and they may be right–the unfettered nature of the web is only making the problem worse.

Getting the media’s attention for the good things your schools are doing can be a challenge–after all, bad news and bad behavior sell.

If we’re going to change our schools’ image, it’s up to us. It’s not the media’s job to tell our story. It’s our job to convince them there’s a better story to tell.

Digital defense

That’s where the web can help. Most reporters like to tap into national news and trends. Like the rest of us, they’re also pressed for time.

Use this to your advantage. Design your home page with the media in mind, and post news releases, daily events, and staff members’ expertise and eMail addresses.

Package your good news in a way that makes it easy for reporters to do business with you. Scan key web sites–like www.eschoolnews.org–that feature breaking education news and issues and tie your media pitch to what’s happening nationally.

News you can use

New surveys, reports, legislation, and major program announcements can serve as launching pads for in-depth features on pressing issues and good news stories about students and staff.

Here’s a few recent examples you can use:

• New educational technology standards for students were published in February by the International Society for Technology in Education. How do local schools measure up?

• A new national study published in February finds that schools must change to prepare students for the digital age. (See “Preparing Schools and School Systems for the 21st Century” on the American Association of School Administrators’ web page.)

• Schools’ spending on software–already at $822 million–is increasing rapidly. What’s the return on investment? How are your schools ensuring that money is being spent wisely? (See the Software and Information Industry Association’s “1999 Education Market Report K-12,” and related news coverage in Education Week.)

Big-picture issues

We recently used these big-picture issues to frame several technology story possibilities for our local media, offering our staff as expert interviews. The news “hook” that made the timing right for a technology story was our Midwest Educational Technology Conference, an annual event that attracted more than 1,500 participants from 28 states.

The result? Strong local television segments on two different stations–with a print story in the works–on technology in schools and the importance of teacher training, with our organization positioned as an expert resource and one of our member districts highlighted as a powerful example of how schools can integrate technology into the curriculum.

The next step? Develop a “good news” section on your web site for anyone who might have missed the originals and advertise its availability through eMail, fax broadcasting, snail mail, and other communication channels. (For an excellent example of this technique, see Rockwood School District’s web site.)

Changing education’s image in the media is going to take time, resources, and a new level of sophistication and skill. Given the growing gap between the public and our nation’s public schools (See Public Agenda’s web site), yesterday is not too soon to get started.

International Society for Technology in Education

http://www.iste.org

American Association of School Administrators

http://www.aasa.org

Education Week

http://www.edweek.org

Rockwood School District

http://www.rockwood.k12.mo.us

Public Agenda

http://www.publicagenda.org