A recent dispatch from the Chronicle of Higher Education plants a headstone for that erstwhile newspaper institution, the higher-education beat. Well, maybe not a headstone, but certainly an earnest get-well card with a detailed, well-reported story printed on the inside. As Richard Whitmire laments, regional newspapers have been shrinking their coverage of higher education, sometimes assigning just one reporter to cover the gamut of local education issues, including elementary, secondary, and higher ed.
The rub is this: As Whitmire points out, regional higher-ed reporting has scooped some of the most important education news of the last few years. For instance, Iowa’s Des Moines Register and Florida’s St. Petersburg Times uncovered shady dealings between local colleges and student loan providers. Moreover, he argues, regional newspapers have a stake in covering the local economy, in which nearby universities and colleges are significant employers and workforce-generators. An informed readership ought to know the condition of local schools, including typical debt burdens and drop-out rates. Without reporters on that beat, however, there will likely continue to be a void in coverage.