Albany Times Union Editors In Full Spin ModeJuly 11th, 2012
By B. Jason Brooks
Times Union education writer Scott Waldman’s well-done story on the New York Education Reform Commission’s first hearing, which took place yesterday in Albany, was posted live on the paper’s website shortly after 6:00 pm. Mr. Waldman’s story was ahead of the pack, being the first online covering the hearings. I give him a lot of credit for covering the story as bluntly as he did, stating that “[t]he three-hour hearing largely consisted of advocacy groups pushing the points they have made for years in newspaper editorials, public rallies and at school board meetings.” The headline when the story was originally posted on the Times Union website also correctly summarized the event: “Education hearing rehashes well-known problems”.
Anyone who attended the hearing would tell you that testimony was provided overwhelmingly by the usual cast of characters representing the education establishment at the Capitol saying the same things they’ve been saying for years about the state’s educational system. I attended the three-hour hearing and afterwards our organization issued a statement making a similar point to what Mr. Waldman’s story claimed:
“Panelists – made up primarily of representatives of teachers, superintendents, administrators, school board members, and politicians – failed to call for the innovative, dramatic policies needed to drive an overhaul of the state’s education system. Little, if anything, new was presented: repeated calls from public education’s entrenched special interests for more funding and a repeal of the property tax cap did nothing to inspire the commission with the vision it needs to rebuild the public education system from the ground up.”
Mr. Waldman even highlighted our points about the lack of new, innovative policies that should been the focus on the day: “Jason Brooks, research director for the Foundation for Education Reform and Accountability, said speakers at the hearing failed to present any new solutions.”
What was quite interesting is that, despite what actually went on in the hearing, the Times Union went into full spin-mode at 11:14 pm by changing the original title of the story from “Education hearing rehashes well-known problems” to “A new path for education: Panel explores ways to help kids become higher achievers through better schools.” Contrary to the revised and misleading headline, the hearing included little, if anything, “new” and there wasn’t any “exploring” new ideas going on. The revised headline no doubt intended to shed a far more positive light on the hearing, and to no surprise, today’s print edition features the story prominently on page 3 with the new happy-talk headline.
In addition to the Times Union’s tweet for the story posted at 6:28 pm, remaining evidence of the change can be found in the two very different web addresses that now feature the same title and story:
Waldman delivered an accurate, timely story on the hearing, but others at the Times Union evidently thought it best to portray the event as meaningful. One can only hope that Education Reform Commission’s final recommendations live up to “A New Path for Education.” Albany’s hearing was just the first of many more to come and the commission still holds a great deal of promise for righting the path of the state’s educational system.
B. Jason Brooks is director of research at the Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability and may be followed on Twitter at @bjbrooksNY.