On the ‘PBS NewsHour,’ Tuesdays Mean a Regular Education Segment

By Mark Walsh — February 08, 2016 2 min read
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If it’s Tuesday, it must be education day on the “PBS NewsHour.”

The public TV news show has begun running education reports each Tuesday under the name “Making the Grade.” And while Education Week last year became a major partner with the NewsHour and provides a variety of coverage, the new project (and this post) is not all about that collaboration.

Making the Grade will include other contributors, such as last week’s 7-minute-plus segment by special correspondent Cat Wise about universal prekindergarten in Oklahoma.

“Making the Grade will consist of weekly segments on broadcast and online of in-depth field reports or newsmaker interviews on timely and relevant education-related topics,” Nick Massella, the NewsHour’s director of audience engagement and communications, told me via email. “It will expand on the reporting that we have been committed to and give us more opportunities to cover an even greater variety of topics in the field.”

Massella said that with the launch of Making the Grade, the NewsHour is committed to offering such reports each Tuesday, thus providing “a consistent day of the week in which our audience can count on education-related reporting.”

He compared it to Making Sen$e Thursdays, when the show features reports on economics and finance. That has resulted in a positive viewer and online response and helped the NewsHour figure out how to cultivate an engaged audience in a defined area, Massella said.

“Our audience and market research shows that the American public is hungry for education reporting and not finding satisfactory coverage from other broadcast and media outlets,” he said.

That last point is one he put rather mildly, and politely. As I have written here, the broadcast news shows and cable news channels, with some exceptions, rarely cover complex education policy issues.

Massella said funding for Making the Grade comes from PBS general funding and from the show’s consortium of public and private funders.

The first Making the Grade report appeared on the Jan. 26 “NewsHour,” and that was an Education Week Video report by correspondent John Tulenko about vocational education.

Anchor Judy Woodruff announced the new regular feature by saying, “We will provide in-depth reporting on education issues at every level, from early childhood and preschool, all the way through high school and beyond with the world of higher education. We will explore the most fundamental concerns in schools, communities and workplaces, and we will also cover plenty of approaches you may not have heard about yet.”

The segment scheduled for this Tuesday, Feb. 9, examines the Detroit school system and how “years of neglect, chronic underfunding, faltering maintenance and corner cutting” have taken their toll on students, parents, and educators, Massella said.

The launch of Making the Grade has been understated. But that could be a good thing. Rather than starting with a big splash only to quietly fizzle, the project seems like it will focus on good, solid, lengthy reports and will stick around for awhile.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.