The Real Mr. Fitz: Who Evaluates the Media?                                                  

Who Evaluates the Media?

In  case you haven't heard, Matt Damon, whose mother is a teacher, came to speak at the Save Our Schools March last weekend. The speech itself was excellent, but his later run-in with a reporter has received even more attention. (If you watch it, it's got some language; I only warn you because I've rated this Blog "G.")

I think Matt makes a fair point. Who is holding the Media "accountable"? I think I've probably written about this before, in terms of columnists who pick on teachers, but the wider question here is this: does the Media, and in particular, news organizations, have the moral clout to pick on teachers? I'm thinking not.

There's Rupert Murdock's News of the World scandal. Granted, News of the World was a tabloid to begin with, but it certainly wasn't journalism's finest hour. And then there's the news-media's handling of the Casey Anthony case. Did they show journalistic restraint and principled behavior, or did they jump on the case every chance they got and feed the frenzy surrounding the case to get ratings and sell papers? If you live in Central Florida as I do, you know the answer to that question.

Don't even get me started on the banality of the local news. A breathless preview of an upcoming story announces, "A man discovers a gigantic wasp nest in his yard! Find out why the neighbors are still staying inside!" Um... because they don't want to get stung? Did you really think we wouldn't figure that out?

There is a lot of talk about liberal bias and conservative bias, and lots of finger pointing. When was the last time we saw someone making a concerted effort to stay fairly neutral? To be fair, I think the News-Journal, the paper Mr. Fitz appears in, has been making an effort. Even as they admit they are "right of center," they have acknowledged that the news itself should be neutral. Opinions are for the opinion pages. How many news organizations are putting journalist integrity above the bottom line? (Which relates back to my last post about what motivates us.)

Has the reporting on teachers been unbiased, or has it been a nearly endless bashing of public schools and their teachers? I think it's the latter, and I think the media aren't really concerned about the state of the schools, or they'd look at the issue more closely. It think the media wants to stir people up for ratings and readership, and teachers are easy targets. It's easy to pull out testing statistics that announce what a crisis our schools are in. It's not so easy to look at the nuanced realities behind those statistics, and it certainly won't bring in the viewers and readers looking for easy answers and someone to blame.

And so I think the media goes about its business, trampling over its own principles day after day, almost proud of its offenses. I think teachers are struggling to do the best they can, day after day, knowing they are vilified, knowing that what they are told to do in the name of "education" is goes against their principles. At least I do.

If today's journalism is tomorrow's history, I am fearful. My hope is that at some point, someone will set the record straight, whether it's Matt Damon, Diane Ravitch, or someone else principled enough to tell the truth whether it makes money or not.

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