How did major newspapers cover the 2018 teacher strikes?
- This report analyzes every article on the 2018 teacher strikes published by five national newspapers.
- The framing of teacher walkout coverage was remarkably impartial, with 56 of 59 article headlines and leads displaying no lean toward one side over another.
- However, articles quoted people in a way that was more one-sided. Over 80 percent of quotes from teachers, parents, and students supported the strikes.
- The coverage often failed to present all the relevant perspectives, such as the thoughts of families affected by the strikes. Of the 254 quotes published, only 5 percent came from an affected parent or student.
- The coverage also neglected to give readers a clear understanding of teacher compensation. Just 15 percent of articles quantified teacher health care benefits, 3 percent quantified pensions, and 2 percent compared teacher salaries to the relevant state’s median household income.
During spring 2018, tens of thousands of teachers in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Colorado, and North Carolina walked out of their schools. These teachers were angry about pay, school funding, proposed benefit changes, and more. The walkouts attracted extensive media attention across the land; that coverage has helped shape public understanding of the strikes and any political impact. With that in mind, this report examines how five national newspapers (the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today) covered the strikes.
Specifically, we examined how stories about the strikes were framed, who was quoted in those stories, and what information about teacher compensation was provided to readers. Using the search engine LexisNexis (a database that collects news articles from national and international news outlets), we identified all the stories these newspapers published on the walkouts between February 15 (just before the first walkout in West Virginia) and June 1 (after the last major walkout ended in May).
In all, we examined 59 news stories. The New York Times published 17 articles on the walkouts; the Wall Street Journal, 16; the Washington Post, 13; the Los Angeles Times, 10; and USA Today, 3. Twenty-six of the articles focused specifically on the West Virginia walkout, 11 on Oklahoma, 5 on Arizona, and the rest on less-prominent walkouts or on multiple states.
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