Media Coverage: The Post's Mathews Revises And Extends His "Boys" Story -- Or At Least Extends It

Like you, I'm a little bit sick of the hullabaloo surrounding the boys crisis this past week, but Jay Mathews' fascinating attempt to explain what happened is just too tempting -- and too problematic -- to leave unnoted.

Is Mathews recanting what he wrote, refining his original piece, or just saying the same thing as before in a longer form?

UPDATE: Mathews responds!


Mathews' attempt at an explanation, Are Boys Really in Trouble?, which I found via Thursday's SmartBrief, apparently came out on Tuesday -- just a day after the original cover story.

It's billed as the story that Mathews wanted to write -- had he been given additional space from the evil A1 editors. In it, Mathews quotes his own story, the report, and additional comments from various stakeholders -- some of which are quite juicy (if you're really into this stuff).

However, there are at least two notable ommissions from the extended version that make Mathews' effort seem incomplete, despite all its length:

First, Mathews doesn't produce -- didn't have? -- any new responses or insights from any independent experts (much less an academic) who might say something definitive about the NAEP data or the brain research that's interpreted in Mead's report. Mead's not an academic. The statekholders aren't independent. And, much as I love him, Craig Jerald doesn't count -- and he was in the original story so he's not even "new."

Even more important, even though he's writing this in his online column -- not as a beat reporter -- Mathews is so busy being so excruciatingly (and some would say belatedly) even-handed in providing this additional material that he never comes out and says that his original story, even at its original length (which is quite short), could or should have been more balanced.

How education reports get covered -- and which ones should be considered independent -- isn't a new topic to Mathews, who just this spring chronicled the dust-up surrounding the NYT's coverage of a NCLB report from Jack Jennings' Center on Education Policy (Pundits' Battle Exposes the Politics of Research).

In this case, which involves Mathews directly, all we know is that he thinks the piece should have been longer, which to me at least makes for a pretty unsatisfying column.

Previous Posts:
Media Hypes Report On Boys -- Not Necessarily A Jackpot...
The Boys Crisis: A "Loser" Issue That's Still Real
Boy Vs. Boy: Whitmire Takes On Mathews


Anonymous Jay Mathews said...

I think this is very fair comment, but I will rise to my own defense anyway, since that part of the fun of blogs. I think, at least in the way we define balance in news stories, the A1 story was balanced. I quoted one of the advocates of the boy crisis saying the Ed Sector piece missed the mark, and also had an independent expert, Jerald, make a comment. But I think when you have just 1,000 words to play with, and a provocative, contrarian report to give to readers, you should let the readers see as much of that report as possible. I told the reader of the previous stories that bought the boy crisis idea that Ed Sector was debunking. If they hadn't read those stories, they can go back and do so. But I wrote my story in the way my favorite reader--me--would most like it. Give me the new stuff, make sure I know there is another side, and what it is, but please spend the bulk of the time telling me stuff I dont know. the column was an experiment in heavily backgrounding a news story, and I think it worked pretty well. And there will be another followup with many of the other experts that you rightly cite. But as I said in the column, even in the infinity of cyperspace, you can't do everything all at once.

11:43 AM  
Anonymous Christopher Fotos said...

Oh great. Now you tell us that women's advantages in education are "nothing new." That "In fact, nearly two-thirds of the increase in women's share of college enrollment occurred more than two decades ago, between 1970 and 1980." Coulda saved ourseles a heckuva lot of trouble the last few decades. Someone really should have told outfits like the AAUW about this before they published How Schools Shortchange Girls in 1992. Never mind--just kidding!

11:38 AM  
Blogger Mike in Texas said...

I would have to disagree, his posts need to be shorter or omitted completely.

He is typical of the education "experts" in that he wouldn't know the inside of a classroom even if it fell on him. The fact that he is often identified as an expert on education is mind-boggling.

12:25 PM  

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