Monday, April 21, 2008

Freedom of the Press (and Zit Cream)

Personally, I'm all for it. In fact, I often wish reporters would wake up and take advantage of it.

For example, if you were visiting from another planet, and watched recent Democratic debates, you'd think that the biggest issue facing the voters was flag lapel pins. You'd think, like Charlie Gibson apparently does, that a typical middle class income was 200 thousand dollars a year. And of course, since inflation is apparently not an issue in this country (nor is health care, the mortgage crisis, the war in Iraq, or disappearing jobs), Charlie, out of touch as he is, may soon be right.

Closer to home, we see our local press napping rather than thinking. The coverage of the city's bombastic claims about tenure is a good example. Let's give an entirely hypothetical scenario and say we have three dermatological patients--Nassau, Suffolk, and Joel. Each of them suffers from zits. The dermatologist prescribes a zit cream that costs a hundred bucks. Nassau and Suffolk use the cream and the zits clear up. Joel says the price is too high and refuses to buy it. Six years later, his zit is bigger than his head.

Joel then calls a news conference to declare the zit cream, the one he's never used, is totally inadequate. The press prominently covers the news conference, and rails against the zit cream. Joel then demands untested surgery for any future zits he may get, and the local op-ed pages applaud him. They deplore the hypothetical governor, whom we'll call David Paterson, for opposing the untested surgery. And no one asks or wonders why Joel didn't or shouldn't try the zit cream.

Let's get out of our entirely hypothetical scenario, and take another look at a more recent event, to wit, the hugely hyped opening of Eva Moskowitz' new school. From what I can glean, 3,600 kids applied for 600 openings. It was a huge event, attended by Joel Klein and Governor David Paterson. The press, of course was there, and pronounced in articles and op-eds how wonderful and marvelous it was.

Now let's say, for the sake of argument, their apparent assumptions are correct--that the schools in Harlem are so awful that children need desperately to escape. Let's say that Ms. Moskowitz' school, which hasn't even opened yet, is a fantastic alternative.

This would clearly suggest that Chancellor Klein has failed over 80% of the applicants to the Moskowitz Academy. It also means he's failed all the other residents of the community, the ones who didn't apply. It also begs this question--what on earth has he done to fix those apparently awful schools he's stuck these folks with? Aside from cutting their budgets, it's tough to say.

And maybe NYC parents need consistently good schools, rather than a highly-rated PR game show in which the odds are strongly stacked against them.

Why do none of these things cross the minds of our crack press corps? Maybe it's too much Sominex.
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