Question: Why is the coverage of teachers by the media important?
Kathryn Shine: Research has shown that news media coverage, particularly newspaper coverage, sets the agenda regarding what issues are significant and important to the wider community and governments. News media coverage is known to influence public opinion and government policy. Hence news media coverage of teachers affects how people think and feel about teachers and their role in society. Teachers recognise this and have expressed concern about the impact of news media coverage which they believe to be typically negative in nature. They have also said that news coverage about teachers and education can affect their relationships with their family and friends.
Numerous researchers have documented a decline in the status of teachers in recent decades while at the same time most developed countries have experienced problems recruiting and retaining teachers. This situation makes research which examines news coverage of teachers more relevant and significant than ever before.
Question: How does this relate to other countries?
Kathryn Shine: Although this book focuses on a major Australian newspaper, scholars in many other developed countries have acknowledged the importance and influence of news coverage of education and teachers. Large-scale studies of this type are scarce but the existing research from countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom has found that negative and critical coverage of teachers and educational standards is common. News coverage also tends to indicate that the burdens placed on teachers are high. These burdens include community expectations as well as having to deal with difficult and challenging work environments.
Findings from our analysis of The West Australian were generally consistent with outcomes of similar, smaller-scale studies undertaken in other countries, with a shift to a more sympathetic tone of coverage in more recent reportage reflecting a trend also identified in the United Kingdom. It is worth noting that while sympathetic coverage of this nature recognises the challenges and stresses experienced by teachers, it ultimately presents teaching as a job in an unfavourable light. As with negative coverage, such sympathetic reporting is likely to discourage people from considering teaching as a career. This has clear implications for ongoing teacher shortage problems.
Question: What about the impact of other media forms (including social media)?
Kathryn Shine: Newspapers have traditionally been the main source of educational news. The mainstream broadcast media typically does not dedicate much time to educational issues as they tend to be complex and difficult to convey in pictures.
Research into the impact of social media in this area is limited to date but it is clear that social media is becoming increasingly important and influential, particularly in terms of grassroots campaigns. It may be that social media will offer a voice to teachers, who are generally marginalised in media debates on educational matters.
Governments are also increasingly adopting social media as way to communicate with the general public and promote particular messages and causes. In Australia, the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, and her team regularly use Twitter and Facebook. In fact, Prime Minister Gillard recently ran a Twitter campaign asking for members of the public to share stories about teachers who changed their lives. She also uploaded a video to YouTube in which she described her own favourite teacher. This suggests not only that Prime Minister Gillard considers Twitter a powerful tool to engage with the community but also that she too is concerned about the lack of positive images of teachers in the public domain. More research needs to be undertaken in this area to gain insight into the relatively new influence of social media.
Recommend this Cambria Press book today! There are affordable Cambria Press e-book versions of this title. Professors, if you would like to use this for your class, refer your librarian to the Cambria Press Desk Copy Plus Program that helps you get free versions for your students!
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