Thursday, July 09, 2015

Chalkbeat Pre-determines Point of View, then Investigates

Chalkbeat NY nee Gotham Schools looks is looking for happy colocation stories. I saw this in an email, and later on a tweet.

Do you have examples of schools in the same building that are working well together? We want to hear from you — whether it’s sharing resources, having joint professional development sessions for teachers, or sending out a building-wide newsletter.

I responded to the tweet and asked why they were only looking for one side of the story, but received no response.

It seems to me that the only reason there are colocations is because Bloomberg decided public schools were awful, and decided that Bill Gates' notion of small schools was the way to go. Gates has since dropped this idea, but in New York we are the first to adopt bad ideas and the last to drop them, so it lives on here. Of course these schools may be small public schools or charter schools. Maybe Eva Moskowitz has moved in, and of course Chalkbeat needs to tell the world why that's a great thing.

But why? Isn't it the job of journalists to report what actually happens? Why wouldn't they just ask what life is like in schools that share space? If it is indeed wonderful, surely people will say so. And if there are flaws, if Moskowitz is not precisely a good neighbor, people can say that too.

But that's not what Chalkbeat NY is looking for. Chalkbeat NY wants the success stories, and they are evidently so hard to find that it must advertise to find them. If that's the case, why are these stories important? There's always an exception to prove the rule. But if that's all you intend to feature, you are simply not projecting anything resembling objective reality.

Now lots of us note that Chalkbeat takes Gates money, that it features E4E as though they actually represented teachers, that it's all over everything charter, and that voices that reflect what really happens in public school are not given space over there. But the answer we get from them, invariably, is that they are not biased. Rather, they claim to be looking at everything objectively.

Why, then, do they actively solicit one side of a story, a side so difficult to locate that they must advertise publicly for it?

I don't read Chalkbeat as much as I used to since their ponderous redesign. I can't really tell which stories are new and they no longer feature comments on their front page. I actually thought the interaction with readers was a great feature, even if their choice of what to report on leaned heavily toward the reformy. They also dropped their nightcap, which featured voices other than those in MSM. But while its format is total drek, it doesn't appear to have bothered to make its reporting any more objective.

Personally, I have no problem with points of view. That's what this blog is all about. I do have a problem when people claim to be objective, and plainly are not. Unfortunately, that's exactly what I see over at Chalkbeat.
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