Last month, I wrote a widely-read blog post on what I found when reading 2 months worth of opinion essays on higher ed at the New York Times. I’ve been trying to get a publication interested having me write up what I find when reading a years’ worth of essays, but so far no dice. It’s a very inside-the-media sort of piece, perhaps without wider appeal. Still, I was troubled:
Over the past two months, there have been nine opinion essays published by the Times directly on Higher Ed that I’ve seen. A few Room for Debates have addressed higher-ed issues, and of course lots and lots of professors have written opinion essays during that time. I made a quick skim of two months of all the opinion essays with the word “professor” in them. I saw zero by community college or lower-status teaching school profs, zero by branch campus public profs, and a handful by top liberal arts schools (Smith, Dickinson) or lower-tier R1 publics (Colorado State, South Carolina). A friend (here’s the tweet with the data, with permission) found about 300 mentions of community colleges to 12000 for just Harvard alone. It’s a problem.
Today, over at Inside Higher Education, Macalester President Brian Rosenberg (note: I worked at Mac for one year as a visiting professor) wrote on a number of recent essays about college costs. Rosenberg writes:
The editorial pages of The New York Times seem to have become the destination of choice for people who want to say uninformed things about American higher education. Let me rephrase that slightly: They have become the destination of choice for people who want to say uninformed things that are designed to get readers angry at American higher education, which I presume is why The Times keeps them coming. In today’s America, anger sells.
I believe that the New York Times matters. It matters to people who have power, who read it every day, who especially read the editorials and opinion columns. It has a cultural impact, the power to shape conversations, that few other publications in the world can match. And so we have to pay attention.