“Fake News” and Fascism

Those who shout about “Fake News” and assert that journalists are “The Enemy of the People” are either demagogues and wanna-be dictators, crooks who are trying to cover up their crimes, or people who have been duped.  While the demagogues and crooks are probably beyond redemption, many of those who have been fooled might be open to evidence.  So in that spirit, let’s show them what good journalism looks like; let’s show them how strong independent journalism makes our society function more honestly and more effectively.

With that in mind, I want to ask you to dig into at least some of the following  examples of remarkable reporting in the education space, finalists in the 2018 Education Writers Association annual journalism contest.  I had the distinct privilege of being one of the judges.  Below are examples of the very opposite of “Fake News.”  Real news that matters….

1) First, here are three pieces from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, whose coverage area includes Parkland and Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School.  The first provides a time line that reveals how many adults failed to do their jobs, which meant that more kids died.

http://projects.sun-sentinel.com/2018/sfl-parkland-school-shooting-critical-moments

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/parkland/florida-school-shooting/fl-florida-school-shooting-discipline-20180510-story.html

https://www.sun-sentinel.com/local/broward/parkland/florida-school-shooting/fl-ne-florida-school-crime-reporting-20181127-story.html

2) I have no doubt that you have heard of MS-13, the notorious gang known for its brutality. President Trump has spoken about it many times.  What you may not know is how some schools have responded to the threat.  Pro Publica, working with The New York Times and New York Magazine, did some digging and produced these two chilling stories that you will not quickly forget.

https://features.propublica.org/ms-13/a-betrayal-ms13-gang-police-fbi-ice-deportation/

https://features.propublica.org/ms-13-immigrant-students/huntington-school-deportations-ice-honduras/

3) Journalists perform a public service whenever they dig deeply into an issue that most of us wonder or worry about.  Here’s an example: reading problems.  No doubt you have children, grandchildren (or friends and neighbors with either) who struggle with reading.  Want to know why?  So did Emily Hanford, with this remarkable result: https://www.apmreports.org/story/2018/09/10/hard-words-why-american-kids-arent-being-taught-to-read   Prepare to be shocked when you learn that most teachers are not taught how to teach reading.  There is established science, but it turns out that a lot of education professors either ignore it or are unaware of it.

4) Great education journalism makes our children and our schools safer and better.  That’s a huge generalization, but I stand by it.  Here’s a wonderful example, this 4-part series from the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Part 1: Learn at your own risk
http://www.philly.com/philly/news/lead-paint-poison-children-asbestos-mold-schools-philadelphia-toxic-city.html

Part 2: Hidden peril
http://www.philly.com/philly/news/asbestos-testing-mesothelioma-cancer-philadelphia-schools-toxic-city.html

Part 3: Botched jobs
http://www.philly.com/philly/news/lead-carbon-monoxide-silica-poisoning-construction-students-teachers-philadelphia-schools-toxic-city.html

Part 4 is an invaluable “School Checkup tool” that allows parents and others to see what’s going on in their school.
http://data.philly.com/toxic-city/lead-poisoning-paint-asbestos-mold-asthma-philadelphia-schools-map-search-tool.html#/

By the way, interactive features like Part 4 of the Inquirer’s series are becoming standard operating procedure in journalism today.  Here’s a wonderful one about lead in the water in public schools in California, created by Ed Source.  https://edsource.org/2018/interactive-map-lead-levels-found-in-california-schools-drinking-water/602769  I urge you to share it with all your California friends and family members.

And here’s another, created by Alvin Chang for Vox, that reveals how school districts can deliberately segregate schools: https://www.vox.com/2018/1/8/16822374/school-segregation-gerrymander-map

(To see all the 2018 finalists, go to the home page of the Education Writers Association: https://www.ewa.org/awards/2018-finalists-reporting-awards)

Clearly, great journalism isn’t just about writing but about telling stories that matter.  So here’s one final example that should put the “Fake News” screed to rest, the faces and voices of people affected by the Parkland murders.  http://interactive.sun-sentinel.com/voices-of-change/  It was also produced by reporters at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, a newspaper that I have just subscribed to.

One request: Share These Stories…

Just as important, please support your local journalism.  This endangered profession will not survive unless we act.  Thomas Jefferson said it best: “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

Thank you…..

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3 thoughts on ““Fake News” and Fascism

  1. John,
    Thank you for this. It’s a terrific curation. Here in Western NC, I support Carolina Public Press, an excellent online news organization (that’s in the process of expanding eastward) with a monthly gift. As a former EWA board member, I hope EWA will continue to reach out to these local and regional news operations for recognition.

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  2. “Great education journalism makes our children and our schools safer and better.”

    Did it make our children and our schools safer and better when you allowed Michelle Rhee to fire a principal on national television, thereby unleashing her reign of terror? Tell me just how making one human being endure the most painful moment of their life on national television made anyone or anything better or safer? I’m sorry, but until you apologize and atone for that appalling act, you maybe should rethink lecturing anyone else about journalism.

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  3. Dienne,
    I suspect that nothing I say will change your mind, but here goes anyway. First of all, airing that sequence (without identifying the person being fired) provided perhaps the truest insight into Rhee up to that point. It was a Rorschach Test for the audience: some people thought she was what education needed–someone tough enough to blah blah blah. Others wondered what kind of person would invite a film crew to film that humiliation. But it was not my place, nor the NewsHour’s place, to pass judgment on Rhee.
    As for my responsibility, we are reporting what happens, to the best of our ability. It would have been irresponsible for us NOT to have filmed that incident, just as it would have been irresponsible for us to have revealed anything about the person being fired.
    Regarding Rhee and my reporting, I invite you to watch all the NewsHour segments AND my Frontline hour AND my blog post, ‘Michelle Rhee’s Reign of Error.’

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