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Assignment: Education

It happens in newsrooms across the nation: the least experienced reporter is assigned to cover education. In a couple of years, when that novice is becoming seasoned and expert, the reporter is assigned to a "more important" beat. Maybe crime.

Soon, those novice reporters, as well as editors, producers and more experienced colleagues, will be able to turn to Teachers College for guidance in covering education from the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media.

The Hechinger Institute, also offering services to educators who deal with the media, has been named to honor the memory of Fred M. Hechinger, a TC Trustee who was widely considered to be the dean of education journalists in America. The former education editor and member of the editorial board of The New York Times, Hechinger died on November 6, 1995.

Gene I. Maeroff, former national education correspondent of the Times, is director of the Institute.

"Fred Hechinger brought a keen intellect, incisive mind, and dignified manner to everything he did," Maeroff said. "As a friend and colleague of Fred's, I am especially pleased to have a role in the Hechinger Institute."

Before his death last November, Hechinger discussed the creation of the Institute with President Levine.

"The Institute was important to Fred," President Levine said. "He understood that reporters and producers often need help in understanding the complex and changing issues of education. It is very fitting that the Institute should be named to honor his memory, because Fred Hechinger was the most influential voice in education journalism in the past half-century."

The Institute will address a range of issues involving education and the media, as well as the effects of media presentation of education issues on public policy and perception. When fully established, the Institute will offer workshops, seminars, lectures and forums for educators, media representatives and the general public. Publications and multi-media tapes will also be part of the Institute's services. The first Hechinger Institute activities in the summer of 1997 will be seminars for new reporters and workshops for school superintendents who wish to deal more effectively with the media.

Other activities being considered for the Institute include a Media Information Center, which would electronically provide education experts for reporters and researchers, and a press residency that would bring media professionals to the TC campus for differing periods of time each year.

Hechinger Institute members are creating plans for working with other groups, such as the Education Writers Association, in improving media coverage of education.

An annual award, given for the most outstanding contribution to the field of education, is also being considered. Each year's recipients would come to TC for a special dinner, speak to community groups and meet with students and faculty.

To date, the Hechinger Institute has been supported by a grant from the William T. Grant Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and by the TC Trustees. Other grants are pending.

Fred M. Hechinger joined the New York Times staff in 1959, after serving as education editor of the New York Herald Tribune and education columnist for the Washington Post. From 1969 to 1978, he served on the Times editorial board, becoming deputy editor of the editorial page in 1976. In 1978, he became president of the New York Times Company Foundation and of the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. He also began writing a weekly column, "About Education." He retired from the Times in 1991. After his retirement, he served as a senior advisor for the Carnegie Corporation of New York. He received a TC Medal for Distinguished Service to Education in 1991 and became a TC Trustee in 1993.

Gene I. Maeroff was on the staff of the Times from 1971 to 1986. For the past 10 years, he has been a senior fellow at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, a position he will continue to hold.

Two of Maeroff's most recent books are Team Building for School Change and The Empowerment of Teachers, both published by TC Press.previous page