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Hechinger Institute Celebrates Opening

Robert MacNeil, former executive editor and co-anchor of The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, and Henry Louis Gates, Jr., author and director of Harvard's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research, held a conversation on educational issues on April 10 at the Cosmopolitan Club to kick off the Hechinger Institute's inaugural event.

The goal of the institute-named in memory of Fred M. Hechinger, former education editor of The New York Times and Teachers College Trustee-is to improve the coverage of education in the media by helping journalists to understand the intricacies of educational policy and school leaders to comprehend the pressures of media deadlines.

Gene Maeroff, the director of the Hechinger Institute, who was a national education correspondent for The New York Times, noted the importance of the Hechinger Institute by saying "The public needs good reporting on education if it is going to hold schools and campuses responsible. The Hechinger Institute means to do all it can to be sure journalists can maintain these high standards."

Grace Hechinger, widow of the Institute's namesake, introduced Robert MacNeil and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Discussing education reporting, Mr. Gates noted, "The length of the tenure of reporters on the education beat is so short. Basically, they show up, get the story and get out."

Mr. MacNeil noted that the media, in its effort to serve the widest number of subscribers, tends to overlook minority audiences. "The media still think white, except as it absorbs black popular culture," he said.

To that, Mr. Gates responded, "That is why we need more diversity in who reports the news and in the corporate structure of the media. We have to look at who writes the news, not who reads the news."

Thirty reporters were selected to participate in the Hechinger Institute's first seminar for education reporters, held from July 18 to 20 at Teachers College.

The July seminar, presented in partnership with the Education Writers Association, was designed to give an overall view of issues regarding education coverage. Topics included the standards movement; school system budgets; ethnicity, race and class in American education; legal issues; governance and structure of elementary and secondary schools; assessment; and specifics on covering the education beat.

The second seminar, Covering Higher Education (in partnership with the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching), held August 15 to 17, reviewed the issues of higher education at a crossroads; the high school/college overlap; student life; the changing faculty profile; the meaning of the bachelor's degree; community colleges and economic development; technology's effect on teaching and learning; institutional budgeting; state support for institutions; federal support for research; and tuition and student aid policies.

Upcoming 1997 Institute seminars will include Covering Math and Science Education, September 19 to 21; Education for Editorial Writers (in partnership with the National Conference of Editorial Writers), October 24 to 26; and Media Relations for School District Superintendents, November 18.

Applications to participate in these seminars are available from the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 West 120 Street, Box 132, New York, NY 10027-6696; telephone: (212) 678-4197; fax: (212) 678-8417; e-mail: hechinger@columbia.edu.

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