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New Institute To Focus on Media, Education

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The relationship between educators and the reporters who cover them isn't always the smoothest.

Administrators at Teachers College, Columbia University, hope to iron out some of those bumps by creating an institute for media and education.

The New York City-based college last week named longtime education writer Gene I. Maeroff to head the institute, which is slated to open in November. It will be named in honor of Fred M. Hechinger, a former education writer and member of the The New York Times editorial board who died last year.

The Hechinger Institute will help education writers and editors learn more about their subject matter, as well as teach education administrators how they can better help reporters.

"What's happened over the last few years is that press coverage of education moved from page 87 of the car ads to the front pages," said the president of Teachers College, Arthur Levine. Mr. Levine has advocated the creation of such an institute as part of his school's recent attempts to reach beyond traditional academic circles.

Although education reporters can have a "profound influence on the policy debate," he added, many come to their jobs with virtually no background in education.

"The main goal is to make sure that coverage of education in this country is as good as it can possibly be," Mr. Maeroff said.

He plans to serve as the institute's director while continuing as a senior fellow at the Princeton, N.J.-based Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Bridging the Gap

Mr. Maeroff, himself a former New York Times reporter, pointed out that journalists often complain of being "stonewalled" by educators. "I would hope that the institute will be able to bridge this gap and work with both sides," he said.

The institute's first activities, planned for mid-1997, will be seminars for new education reporters and workshops for superintendents who want to work more effectively with the news media.

Future activities include creation of a media information center that would provide sources and experts to reporters, and a press residency to bring media professionals to the campus.

Mr. Maeroff said the institute also hopes to collaborate on future projects with other media and education organizations such as the Education Writers Association, a Washington-based professional group.

Funding for the institute will come from the William T. Grant Foundation in New York City and the Teachers College trustees.

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