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

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Our Perpetually Failing Media

So Bob Braun states the obvious - finally:
So — what’s the problem? Why can’t the state tell the truth about charter schools?
Why does the governor have to be asked repeatedly to be fair about comparing charter schools with conventional schools? He’s such a fan of charters, you’d think — prosecutor that he was — he’d jump at the chance of blowing away critics with facts.
Instead, he publishes only selective facts that support his arguments.
We've been over this time and again here, thanks to the work of Bruce Baker and others: charter schools serve different populations than regular schools, with far fewer kids in poverty, far fewer kids who speak English as a second language, far fewer kids who are classified for special education, and far fewer minority kids attending charters.

To Braun's credit, he even quotes Baker in his piece:
Bruce Baker, a Rutgers researcher, contends that, if all factors are honestly considered, score differences would be a "statistically insignificant" 3 points, not the huge differences found in the state report. Charter schools — and Christie — wouldn’t look so good then. Not in Peoria, not in Piscataway.
"The education department should produce accurate studies and not hide data," Baker says.
Gee, what's not to like here? What's my problem with this article?

How about this:
This newspaper asked for fair comparisons. It asked — seven times — for a report comparing similar students. After a week, the administration issued a revised report, but still didn’t account for income differences. The newspaper asked again — three times — but still the administration wouldn’t publish data residents have a right to know. The Star-Ledger finally had to file a formal request under the state’s Open Public Records Act.
Then, his spokesman Michael Drewniak told an editor here — not me — the newspaper would get the facts "in the normal course." He had to say that. It’s the law. Christie, Mr. Law-and-Order, must either tell the truth or break the law.
Gosh, that's terrible, Bob. And maybe it was an indication that you shouldn't just parrot the Christie administration's slanted figures in a straight news piece: not an op-ed, but a regular article.

Unfortunately, YOUR PAPER DID JUST THAT! Without consulting any experts like Bruce, without understanding the deception that was being put before you, you published the Christie's "selective facts" - your words, Bob, not mine - in the news section of your paper, followed by an endorsement by Bruno Tedeschi, a charter-promoting hack who regularly writes pro-charter propaganda on your paper's website.

I'm all for Braun calling out the governor, but he should also be calling out his own editors. How could they put that garbage into print without, at the very least, running it by someone who could offer an informed critique of its value?

Journalist, heal thyself.

ADDING: In the original article, Christie's office is not listed as the source of the facts. It's all "the Star-Ledger obtained" passive-voice nonsense. That's just unacceptable in a serious news organization. Does the S-L have an ombudsman?

No comments: