Leonie Haimson and other activists at Class Size Matters sent a letter to Chalkbeat.org pointing out the evident bias in their reporting of recent charter school controversies in New York. In it, they note how much coverage has been devoted to the activities of pro-charter advocates compared to the coverage given to a citywide rally organized by the Community Education Councils.
Rather than sending one of your reporters to cover this event, you only posted a short blurb clearly taken from the press release after the fact. Chalkbeat’s failure to assign a reporter to the event glaringly contrasts with your close and detailed coverage of every move made by the charter operators and their backers. Indeed, you published two different stories on the charter march across the Brooklyn Bridge, three different stories on the Albany rally for charters (though you failed to disclose that Gov. Cuomo was actually behind it) , and on March 29 you ran two stories on reactions to the budget bills, BOTH from the point of view of the charter operators.
Even more importantly, you have failed to cover any of the substantive issues and reasons behind our anger, including how unprecedented these charter provisions are, how they apply only to NYC, how they will detract from the city’s already underfunded capital plan and cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, while thousands of public school students will continue sit in trailers or in overcrowded classrooms, without art, music, science or therapy and counseling rooms, or on waiting lists for Kindergarten.
The letter further noted how Chalkbeat’s expansion from the now defunct Gothamschools site was made possible with funding from the Gates Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation, both strong advocates for charter schools.
Chalkbeat’s very brief reply stated:
The bottom line is that the protest was clearly well-attended and unique in its CEC-wide organization, and we wish we had been there.
We make decisions about coverage every day based on the fact that we can’t be at every relevant event in the city or it would be impossible for us to provide any deeper coverage of these issues. We regularly attend, and skip, events that reflect a variety of viewpoints. That’s why we work to keep readers informed about events we don’t make it to with posts like the one we wrote about this protest.
They also swore that their coverage choices merely reflect their best judgment on how to contribute to the conversation in New York City and not the political bias of their funders.
Uh-huh. The response would have been more honest with an Alfred E. Neuman cartoon.
4 responses to “Chalkbeat Gets a Letter Cogently Pointing Out Bias in Reporting — Responds With a Shrug”
What a non-story. Better title: “Leonie Haimson leads yet another protest against great schools and blames media for not covering it sufficiently.”
I see no evidence that Haimson and her allies are “against great schools”. I see real evidence that they legitimately protest extreme favoritism that extends all the way to the governor’s mansion on behalf a small segment of schools that just happen to have the support of people writing very large campaign donations. And especially in favor of one very large operator of schools in that segment whose claims of both achievement and the characteristics of the population she serves do not stand to scrutiny.
Charters have a role to play in contemporary education. Albert Shanker envisioned them as a small labs of innovation that could inform the rest of the system. He would not recognize chains such as Success and KIPP as representative of that vision. In a time when Albany has strangled local revenue and played games with school aid to the tune of millions of dollars per district per year, resulting in staff cuts across most districts, it is obscene to continue to grant such unprecedented favoritism to entities who sue the state to prevent anyone from knowing how they are spending money.
I didn’t lead this rally; it was led by the elected parent leaders from the entire city called Community Education Councils. In less than a week, they organized a rally hundreds of angry parents stood up to protest the unprecedented charter favoritism in the new state law going forward. Sadly few if any media outlets were there to report on the rally, or give an unbiased analysis of the charter preferences in the budget.
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