Monday, June 16, 2014

Journalism is a dumb idea

Why would anyone even bother?
After today, we won’t produce our daily What We’re Reading newsletter of top stories from various news sources. And with the end of the school year, we’re putting our Charter School Reporting Corps on hiatus. We’re also sharply reducing our state political coverage.

We hope these popular features can return to The Lens, and we’ve instituted an aggressive fundraising effort to make that happen.

Many people, including those in the charter school movement, have told us how valuable our charter-schools coverage has been over the past few years. In many cases, a Lens reporter has been the only member of the public at these meetings. That oversight has shaped how these boards operate and spend public dollars, and we’re proud we could make that happen.

But it costs a lot — in time and money — to do this work. In addition to paying the freelancers to cover these meetings, we must coordinate coverage for more than 40 boards and edit the stories.

This is from a letter to The Advocate by Tulane political science professor J. Celeste Lay.
This idea of school choice is more legend than fact. Parents must apply to the RSD schools via OneApp, a system that fails to guarantee a spot in any of one’s top choices. Given the scores within RSD, parents have a Hobson’s choice. They can apply to OPSB schools but because these schools control their own enrollment, there are lotteries. Unlike the Power Ball, all tickets do not have an equal chance of winning. You can only get into the lottery if you meet a school’s criteria. At one school, prospective kindergartners are given a reading and math test (never mind that most can’t read and are unfamiliar with the term “math”) in a room, alone with a test administrator he or she does not know on a date assigned by the school. Students who do not score above a certain level cannot get into the lottery, and those who score the highest have better odds of selection. When it can essentially draft its students, is it a wonder this is one of the city’s highest performing schools?

How much longer will our elected officials allow this experiment to continue? Unfortunately, theories on power suggest cause for more despair than hope. In 1962, political scientists Peter Bachrach and Morton Baratz argued that mass groups had authority in local debates about public education because the elites had effectively narrowed the public’s choices so that any electoral outcome was acceptable. Indeed, in the last election, there were no candidates in opposition to the privatization agenda.

The Lens was often the only reporter in the room with the directors of our sprawling, failing, experiment in school privatization.  That they're giving up their most uniquely impactful beat can only mean their situation is dire. I guess that Director of PARTYING position might not be available anymore.

And, given the lack of scrutiny devoted to charters from the rest of the local media, it means our situation is dire as well. 

At least someone will still tell us who the debs are.  I suppose that's all the education coverage this market needs.

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