School leaders must learn how to navigate the new digital news ecosystem, Brookings researchers say.

According to a new study by the Brookings Institution, Americans want more news coverage of their public schools. But to improve the media’s coverage of public education, school leaders must learn how to navigate the new digital news ecosystem.

Not surprisingly, given the federal policy shift in favor of performance pay for teachers, Americans say they want more information from the media about teacher effectiveness and student achievement.

The media’s obsession with school crime and violence—currently at historic lows—also shows its power to shape public opinion about public education: According to the Brookings study, Americans want to see more news stories about school crime and violence, as well as more information about teaching and learning, finances, and school reform.

School leaders must learn how to navigate the new digital news ecosystem, Brookings researchers say. New technologies are lowering news production costs while expanding communication channels through the internet, social media, blogs, eReaders, texting, and smart phones.

“The new ecosystem has clear strengths, including immediacy, interactivity, and diversity,” according to Brookings’ executive summary. “But these virtues must be linked effectively to the delivery of in-depth and substantive reporting.”

While some might view television or internet news coverage and “in-depth, substantive reporting” as an oxymoron, getting better media coverage is possible. Here’s how:

Create an in-house news gathering operation.

To pitch good stories to reporters, school officials need a system for identifying potential news opportunities. Internal key communicator programs are a good place to start.

These programs recruit employee volunteers to serve as news reporters for their schools or departments, and then feed story ideas and other information to the principal or district communications office.