@NYTimes’s Journalistic “Issue” vs. Journalistic “Integrity” | Ecology of Education

@NYTimes’s Journalistic “Issue” vs. Journalistic “Integrity”

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The NYTimes recently published a piece on teacher evaluation. I submitted the following comment (which they did not post) to the online forum:

I searched through NYTimes’ archive of medical / law / finance / congressional / military reform articles looking for pieces that fail to quote a doctor / lawyer / banker / policy-maker / enlisted soldier, and I found zero. Yet, here is an article — printed above the fold on the front page of the Sunday Times — about teachers, teacher evaluation, and education reform that quotes not a single teacher.

While this has been par for the course in policy circles and lesser publications, the perpetuation of this trend in a publication of the Times’ gravitas has become routinely disappointing.

One of the first rules of managing change is to enlist, engage, and involve vested parties, especially those for whom the change impacts the most. A shared vision and buy-in are key to implementation that lasts. However, before either of those can be realized, we must ensure that teachers are actually a part of the visioning and, at a minimum, a part of the conversation.

The Times can be a part of this solution by simply doing what they typically do well: quality journalism. When you write about K-12 education, quote a K-12 educator, just as you do when it comes to other professions.

Upon realizing that the Times was not going to publish my response among the 600+ others, I wrote to the Public Editor expressing my concerns as follows:

The quote was never published and I wonder why. I was not malicious or untruthful. As a long time reader of the Times, I feel I offered a legitimate concern that should be a (however minuscule) part of the conversation.

That the Times seems to lean in favor of reformers is neither here nor there for me (we all have values we communicate, even when we strive for objectiveness), but when there is neglect to even include the voice of a teacher who is subject to the evaluation, I think there may be an editorial bias that may have negative consequences on students, in the spirit of trickle down disenfranchisement. And, as a former classroom teacher, when I think about teachers feeling disempowered and potentially translating that to their students, I feel the need to speak up.

Would the Times ever publish a piece about the evaluation of doctors without quoting a doctor? The evaluation of lawyers without a quote from a lawyer? Finance without a quote from a banker? It would be raked over the coals if it did.

The assistant to the public editor, Meg Gourley, responded as such:

Thank you for writing. Including quotes from teachers would have helped broaden this story, but this is a journalistic issue, not an issue of journalistic integrity. We appreciate the feedback and will continue to keep an eye on this coverage.

It is on this point that I continue to take issue, as I did in my initial response. How do we distinguish between “journalistic issue” and “journalistic integrity”? The matter remains, teachers are the subject of the article, yet their voice is unrepresented. How is that not an issue of integrity?

If we want to change the outcomes for students who are marginalized by our education system, the answer lies in the intentional engagement of educators, rather than in the journalistic exclusion of teachers. It is time for media outlets to see educators as necessary and integral to this national conversation about education, not optional inputs. In my humble opinion.

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