I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Gates Rigs The Media Game

Commenter jcg makes a great point below:
Myths flooding the media for corporate reforms are being written and underwritten by the man behind the curtain- Bill Gates. He's has a multi-pronged strategy for propagandizing the public discourse.

According to Valerie Strauss in WaPO, "The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is spending at least $3.5 million to create a new organization whose aim is to win over the public and the media to its market-driven approach to school reform, according to the closely held grant proposal."

At the same time, the Gates foundation has developed a grading system for media coverage of education issues with its obnoxious “Media Bullpen”. A clear intimidation tactic to marginalize dissenting or investigative journalists. Bill guarantees he'll be out in front of Jane Mayer-types with a clear counter argument to muddy the issue.
http://mediabullpen.com/ Check out the batting averages and home runs for school choice,teacher’s unions, and funding. 

All while the Gates foundation is investing $400-million into program-related investments such as providing guarantees for bonds for charter schools.

Does anyone see a major conflict of interest designed to guarantee a steady flow of public funds to Gate's private interests?

I'm glad jcg brought this up, as I've been meaning to wrote about The Center for Education Reform's "media watchdog" site for a while now. Gates is directly responsible for The Bullpen: he gave a grant of $275,000 to operate the site. And it is, indeed, obnoxious.

The site gives a graph or two from a story in the NJ press about education, right next to critique of the story, ostensibly about the its "fairness" and "accuracy." The criticism, however, is almost always a piece of snark that says nothing about the story's veracity, relevance, or thoroughness.

The site also uses a cheesy rating system for stories, from "striking out" to "home run." No, really, they do.

Some examples from the Bullpen's coverage of education reporting in NJ:

Jersey Shore Or Jersey Legislature?

Mar 11, 6:51 AM:

Charging that acting state school chief, now nominated for the post, lied to him about knowing Newark mayor, one legislator threatens to use “senatorial courtesy,” which means he can block Gov nominees who reside in his district. And that's a courtesy? He said, she said and Gov added. Who cares? Want to change the channel back to Gov's ed plan of tenure reform, merit pay and school choice. What's the latest there?

Anyone who has followed the story knows that this issue isn't whether Cerf "knew" Booker; it's the relationship between the two and how the firm Cerf funded got a $500K contract to "advise" Booker on implementing charter schools. Granted, the story doesn't detail this - THAT would be a legitimate criticism.

Instead, The Bullpen says the problem is that there just isn't enough time being spent on Christie's cheerleading the corporate reform agenda - the same agenda Gates and CER are pushing. Does this sound like balanced media criticism to you?

Shape Up Or Shut Down

Mar 11, 5:55 AM:

Two NJ charters on probation until improvement plan drawn up and implemented, while another faces threat of closing due to low test scores. Shining example of accountability that charter opponents claim is lacking. Wish reporting compared number of closed charters vs. terminated traditional public schools to see where the real accountability problem is.
And I wish the corporate reformers would think a little about the lives of the students and families they are disrupting by pushing schools that they are happy to close down on a whim. But this story gives them ammo for shooting down claims that charters are unaccountable, so it must be good journalism.

Oh, and notice how the Bullpen just assumes closing schools equals accountability. And, if you push that in the press, you're doing a good job as a reporter. Yeah, no bias here...

Gov Christie: Sexiest Man Alive

Mar 10, 2:33 PM:

Well, how 'bout that? NJ gov taken aback, for a moment only, when participant in town hall meeting said he was “hot and sexy.” Uh, she meant in a political sort of way. Regardless of his animal appeal, he went on to handle even hotter subjects, like responding to the state Teacher of the Year's request to meet with her and other teachers; the gov has refused to meet with the teacher union. He ducked the issue. What a tease.
This story got a home run. No, I'm not joking.

As jcg so rightly points out, this is a huge conflict of interest that any ethical non-profit organization would distance themselves from immediately. Gates is not only using CER and other organizations to push his version of corporate reform; he's using his vast wealth to shut down dissent and tilt the debate toward his side.

I have no problem, by the way, with serious media criticism that takes a particular political or other point of view. Media Matters for America is a great organization. But the Media Research Center is not. That has nothing to do with their political leanings; it has to do with their standards. And the standards of The Bullpen are evidently very, very low.

If the corporate reform movement really believed they had the better plans for our schools, they wouldn't be stooping so low as to work the media by lobbing lazy crap like this at them. They'd be calling for a fair, open, honest debate, because they would be confident in their ability to win arguments on their merit.

That they retreat to this sort of nonsense tells you all you need to know about their sincerity.

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