Tag Archives: New York Daily News

WHY IS THE DAILY NEWS SO WRONG ABOUT SO MUCH?

dailynews

I think we can all agree that the New York print media leaves a stadium parking lot to be desired. At the bottom of the pile is the New York Post which is little more than a daily snuff flick set to words. At the top is the New York Times, the supposed paper of record, whose coverage of current events is as deep as a kiddie pool. Somewhere between the two is the New York Daily News: half snuff, half fluff and all puff.

Take the Daily News’ coverage of the teacher evaluation fiasco between the UFT and DOE for instance. It hasn’t merely been bad or biased in its usual way. It has been downright uninformed. The unnamed author of this opinion piece, entitled Doomed to Fail, seemed to go out of their way to avoid doing even the most basic research on what the UFT and DOE were negotiating, why they were doing so and who played what role.

“What?”, “Why?” and “Who?”, as we were taught in grammar school, are three of the five basic questions journalists set out to answer when writing a story. The fact that the Daily News got 60% of it wrong is nothing short of a disgrace.

What’s worse is that Gotham Schools linked to this piece in yesterday morning’s “Rise and Shine” section. Am I just expressing sour grapes over the fact that Gotham Schools has never, not once, linked to my blog or otherwise acknowledged my existence? Yes it is but I will fry that kettle of fish another time. Much like my banishment from DOE broadband I take Gotham Schools’ derision of this website as a badge of honor.

But back to the appropriately named Doomed to Fail, which could just as easily be a description of the unnamed author’s efforts to write an intelligent piece about a basic bit of education news. The ignorance starts from the very first sentence:

The futile head-butting that passed for negotiations between United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott on a state-mandated teacher evaluation deal laid bare the fatal flaw in Gov. Cuomo’s approach: letting districts and unions negotiate their plans rather than imposing one from the start.

“Letting school districts and unions negotiate their plans” was not “Gov. Cuomo’s approach”. These negotiations, along with all of the other evaluation talks across the state, are mandated by the federal Race to the Top program.  New York State applied to the federal government for Race to the Top money. One of the conditions that must be fulfilled before receiving this money is the institution of new teacher evaluations. At least part of these evaluations must be agreed upon in collective bargaining (see: negotiation between unions and school districts).

Therefore, it is not Governor Cuomo’s approach. It is President Barack Obama’s and Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s approach. This is the “who?” that the Daily News embarrassingly gets wrong. (And Gotham Schools thought worthy enough to hyperlink.)

Third sentence:

Because while the governor set up a basic framework — teachers to be ranked on a four-tier scale based on student test score gains and other performance measures; professional help for those rated poorly; the boot for those who couldn’t improve after two years — he left it to the districts and their unions to work out the details.

Wrong. The governor alone did not set up the basic framework. The framework was agreed upon in collective bargaining between the State of New York (which includes Cuomo, State Education Commissioner John King and State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch) and New York State United Teachers (which includes NYSUT President Richard Ianuzzi and United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew).

Again, the Daily News gets the basic “Who?” wrong.

Furthermore, the framework does not provide for giving “the boot” to “those (teachers) who couldn’t improve after two years.” Instead, teachers who don’t “improve” after two years would be subject to a 3020 (add the “a” to that number if you’re in NYC) hearing in which an arbitrator would decide whether or not to terminate said teachers. A teacher whose incompetence has been vouched for by an independent validator will have the burden of proof at the hearing to show they are not incompetent. A teacher whose incompetence has not been vouched for by an independent validator will have to be proven to be so by the school district.

This is a “What?” the Daily News gets wrong in this case.

Fourth and fifth sentences:

Which, as everyone knows, is where the devil is. Especially given the chronically obstinate UFT.

Sure, Mulgrew says he supports better evaluations. But at negotiation time, he’s all elbows.

Um, Mulgrew was one of the parties that agreed to this framework for “better evaluations” in the first place, a framework that has already been made official in most other school districts in this state. Is this the work of someone “chronically obstinate” or “all elbows” during “negotiation time”?

Essentially, the Daily News is accusing Mulgrew of torpedoing an evaluation framework that he helped create in the first place. Does this count as a “Why?” the Daily News gets wrong? I say it does.

Sentences six through nine:

Even so, it looked like a deal was in reach until early Thursday — hours before Cuomo’s deadline. Then, Mulgrew insisted on a two-year sunset on the evaluation program that would pull the plug just before the worst of the worst would get the ax.

Not to mention brand new arbitration procedures above and beyond the hard-won streamlined process currently in place.

I presume the “hard-won streamlined” arbitration process currently in place refers to the supposed abolition of New York City’s infamous rubber rooms. Whoever wrote this article has never heard of Francesco Portellos who has been languishing in a rubber room for the better part of a year.

Mulgrew could not have possibly insisted on “new arbitration procedures above and beyond” the system currently in place. The procedures in place now, as tepid as they are, require the school district to prove the incompetence of a teacher. As we have seen, Mulgrew already agreed to a basic framework with New York State that effectively short-circuits this by placing the burden of proof on the teacher. In short, he couldn’t have proposed anything to make terminating teachers more difficult than it is now since doing so would have violated the basic framework to which he already agreed at the state level.

Again, when it comes to the “Why?” of the failure of these negotiations the Daily News gets it wrong. Hey, at least it was good enough for Gotham Schools.

The rest of the article:

How could a mayor committed to school reform ever accept a system that purported to elevate teacher quality but would vanish before it could actually do some good? He couldn’t. Mayor Bloomberg had no choice but to say no.

Amazingly, some 90% of the approved plans negotiated by the 682 districts around the state sunset after one year, not two — a provision that Bloomberg dismissed as a sham.

He’s got that right.

Perhaps those districts merely felt the need to reevaluate in a year’s time, not go back to the drawing board. But in the city? Don’t count on it.

Here — with contract talks looming and a new mayor set to take office in January — it’s a sure bet that, had Bloomberg buckled, no teacher would ever be let go under tough new standards.

So, here we are: The kids lose. The teachers lose. The city loses. Only Mulgrew, able to say he stood up to a tough-guy mayor, thinks he wins.

Bully for him.

Right. This is your opinion and you’re entitled to it.

Why should your opinion matter when you fail to get the most rudimentary aspects of these negotiations straight, aspects that you could have gleaned from a simple Google search? Moreover, why should you get space in a major market newspaper when you obviously have not been following this story? Finally, why should Gotham Schools find this uninformed drivel poignant enough to hyperlink when there were easily dozens more insightful articles out there to highlight about this and other New York City school matters?

The answers are “it doesn’t”, “you shouldn’t” and “they shouldn’t” respectively.

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The Daily News: A Case Study in Yellow Journalism

This headline should be the Daily News' new title.

Rachel Monahan, Erin Durkin and Ben Chapman put their names on a recent Daily News article regarding teacher Eric Chasanoff aka Chaz of Chaz’s School Daze. Since then, the New York City teacher blogosphere has rose eloquently to Chaz’s defense, especially Chaz himself (here and here). See Ednotes, ICEUFT, Perdido Street School, South Bronx School and The DOEnuts blog (here and here).

The piece printed up by the Daily News demonstrates the sad state of American journalism. Like Chaz, I would like to dissect the hatchet job done on his reputation, if only to show the subtle manner in which papers like the Daily News manipulate public opinion.

The article starts:

One of the 16 teachers that the city wants to fire but can’t insists he’s no perv — and bashed officials for trying to can him for an awkward but innocent remark.

The poor city, they are unable to fire Chaz. No doubt, this is due to all of those union protections that Bloomberg said would get an axe murderer a slap on the wrist. Is it a coincidence that this article was released right around when Bloomberg made those remarks on the radio?

Of course, Chaz insists that he is no “perv” (way to raise the level of discourse). He does not prove, assert or posit that idea. He insists on it, like a child who broke the expensive vase insists he is innocent. On top of that, he has the nerve to “bash” officials. He does not criticize or respond to them. He bashes them like a Klansman does to minority groups. What a hateful person this Chaz is.

“The DOE should be ashamed of themselves for trashing and trying to humiliate the 16 teachers who Independent Arbitrators found ‘no sexual misconduct,’ ” Chasanoff wrote in a lengthy blog post. “In my case, they had a weak and bogus case to begin with and lost.”

How are we supposed to verify that Chaz actually wrote this on his blog? There is no web address or blog title. It is just proper etiquette to cite your sources. I suppose they do not want the public to hunt down the website so they can get a more balanced account of what took place. Now I do not feel so bad for not linking back to the Daily News.

 A student in Chasanoff’s class at Jamaica High School in 2006 told investigators that when the teacher handed back a test she had passed, he said, “I’m so proud of you. If it wouldn’t get me in trouble, I would kiss you.”

The problem is, that is not what Chaz actually said. You see what the Daily News is doing here? They are technically stating a fact, since that is what the student claimed Chaz said at one point.

An actual investigative reporter would have, you know, investigated. If they had done so, they might have found what Chaz actually said as per the independent arbitrator. Sure, the DOE only released the report issued by the Special Commissioner of Investigations to the Daily News. That is where they get the student’s claim from. But that claim changed during the hearing, and probably many more times between the investigation and the hearing, so why only print the SCI report?

The short answer: because it was easy. Reporters have deadlines and space limits. They cannot possibly be bothered with presenting the full scope of a story. If only Woodward and Bernstein had exclusively quoted Nixon’s press releases to paint a picture of the Watergate scandal, the country would have never known their president was involved in heinous cover-up.

The long answer: because the Daily News knows that stories of perv teachers kissing and grabbing teenage girls sells papers. The DOE knows this as well. They also know that papers like the News cannot be bothered with writing a balanced account of what happened. People in the big city, as well as the small city, want their news on the go. They do not want to be bothered with too many words or perspectives. Keep it short and simple. So the DOE exploits the Daily News’ constant quest for simple, juicy stories compiled in a rush by releasing incomplete information. It is a win-win. The Daily News gets their scoop and the DOE gets a major media outlet to make their case for destroying teacher protections.

Yup, it is a win-win scenario. The only losers are the students who stand to lose their most experienced teachers.

 She said he had previously put his hands on her shoulders to calm her down before the test, grabbed her elbow on the way into the classroom the day it was handed back, and appeared to be looking down her shirt when he made the kiss remark.

She did say this, did she not? Again, this story changed once she got in front of the arbitrator. In fact, the arbitrator found that this did not happen at all. The flighty words of a teenager are print worthy things in this day and age I suppose. Maybe teenagers can write all of the articles for the Daily News.

When I was a kid, I told people that I was going to play third base for the New York Yankees. Can we run a juicy headline about Alex Rodriguez having some competition? Maybe we can get his thoughts from his blog that we refuse to actually cite. And the fact that, as it turned out, I do not play for the Yankees? Irrelevant.

But Chasanoff, a 15-year veteran who makes $80,987 a year, had been warned before. He was reprimanded in 2002 for putting his arms around a student’s waist, an incident he doesn’t mention in his post.

This is the part of the article for which the Daily News has since issued a retraction:

Ed. Note:   This story refers to a letter of reprimand received by Eric Chesanoff for a 2002 incident in which he allegedly put his arms around a student’s waist. Although the Department of Education recently supplied that letter to the Daily News, we have since learned that an arbitrator ruled in 2004 that the allegation was false and ordered the Department to remove the reprimand from Chasanoff’s file.

It is pretty obvious why Chaz did not mention this on his blog at first, is it not? If not for the work of Chaz, along with the other NYC teacher bloggers, this little tidbit would have never made it on to the Daily News website. After all, it is not like they are going to do any investigating for themselves.

The problem is, this is not the only part of the article in need of retraction, as we have seen.

 Chasanoff is a vocal critic of the Bloomberg administration on his blog, which is full of rants against the Department of Education. He says his “goal is to outlast Mayor Bloomberg & Chancellor Walcott in their ‘children last’ program.”

Ah, the famous “rants” comment. Chaz is a ranting, bashing lunatic! And look, he wants to outlast Bloomberg and Walcott in their “children last” program. That is impossible. Does he not know that Bloomberg is mayor for life? When the term limits expire, he just pays for more. Is Chaz saying he wants to outlive Bloomberg? That’s impossible too. We all know that Bloomberg does not smoke or eat any trans-fats. He does not have to put up with those pesky things that give other politicians heart attacks, like democratic processes. When the democratic process becomes too cumbersome, he just waves some money at it and it goes away. Bloomberg is immortal.

And the DOE’s motto is Children’s First, Chaz. This is just another example of Chaz “bashing” and “ranting” against Lord Bloomberg. We all know he puts children first, always. That is why he released the teacher data reports. The parents have a right to know if their children’s teachers are crummy. It does not matter if the margins of error on those reports are so large that they render the numbers utterly useless. Bloomberg is all about transparency, except when it comes to releasing information on the mess the 911 system has become.

The article ends:

 Mayor Bloomberg blasted the arbitrators Friday. “Maybe if you were a serial ax murderer you might get a slap on the wrist,” he said.

Notice how Bloomberg does not “bash” or “rant”. This despite the fact that what Bloomberg said is more out there than anything Chaz was quoted as saying in this article. He blasted the arbitrators just like a superhero with a ray gun.

There are no excuses for this type of reporting. It is shoddy, shallow and biased. Ben Chapman has been making his rounds on the blogosphere giving a whole bunch of excuses as to why certain details of Chaz’s case were left out: space constraints, editors’ decisions, incomplete information, the list goes on. One wonders why he would put his name on something over which he had so little control and into which he put so little effort.

This is the sad state of reporting in the United States. While teachers are held to a ridiculous standard of accountability, like getting fired for comments they make on Facebook and getting their names in the papers for their students’ test scores, reporters get a free pass. They can be biased, half-report stories and put their names on things over which they had little influence.

Speaking of which, the Daily News was right there to publish teacher data reports, despite the criticisms of teachers who said that their teaching is not the only factor in their students’ test scores. It did not matter to publications like the Daily News. They were there to shame us like the rest of the media.

The biased rants of the Daily News against human beings who dare to make a career out of teaching is shameful. If this is the Fourth Estate, no wonder why we live under a Reign of Terror.