Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tsunami of Pro-Charter Opinion in the Dailies by Leonie Haimson - NYC Public School Parents

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Before the state raised its cap on charter schools last month, New Yorkers were inundated with a flood of TV, radio and internet ads from the hedge-fund privateers: Democrats for Education Reform and Education Reform Now, both groups trying to disguise themselves as parents, educators and community members.

We were also overwhelmed by a tsunami of editorials and opeds from the newspapers, all in unison purveying the same flawed statistics and arguments, trying to bully the Legislature into submission.

I had my intern, Ann Fudjinski, count all the editorials and opeds in the NY Post, the Daily News, the NY Times and the Wall Street Journal between March 1 and May 29, when the final vote on the cap occurred.

The resulting tally (in excel) is quite astonishing.

In the NY Post, there were 21 separate editorials and 21 opeds for raising the cap in less than three months; sometimes several on one day. Nine were written by charter school authorizers, operators or paid lobbyists. (And this doesn't count the obviously slanted coverage of some of the reporters.)

In the Daily News, there were 25 editorials and opeds, for raising the cap; with only one leaning against (by Andrew Wolf). Eleven were opeds; three by a regular columnist (Errol Louis) and five by charter authorizers, operators, or paid representatives of the charter industry.

The volume was decidedly smaller in the NY Times and Wall St. Journal, but similarly one-sided. One pro-charter editorial and one pro-charter oped appeared in the Times; and one pro-charter editorial and two pro-charter opeds in the WSJ.

Traditionally, newspaper opeds are supposed to provide balance to offset the views expressed by the editors and/or the regular columnists.

I emailed the oped editor of the NY Post, Adam Brodsky, to provide a response to the overwhelming lack of balance; unsurprisingly I got no reply.

I did get a response from Josh Greenman, the oped editor of the Daily News, who wrote that balance was less important than the "strength of argument, timeliness, vibrancy, newsworthiness and value added to an important debate."

Which begs the question why the only pieces he thought were sufficiently vibrant, newsworthy and valuable to the debate were those that agreed with the frequently reiterated positions of the Daily News editors.