Class Explosion and Blown Up Journalism

Mar 27, 2018 by

It might be easier to sift through a pile of co-mingled cremated remains, separate the ashes into discrete personalities, and then reconstitute them into their formerly intact living human bodies than it is to separate editorial spin from the Daily News purportedly straight news reporting.
That’s particularly true of their education stories.

They rarely take the risk of letting the facts speak for themselves, even when those facts would lead the reader to a conclusion that is compatible with their editorial slant. Last week’s story about a science teacher’s disastrous classroom experiment is a perfect example.

The nature of the experiment was ill-advised and the teacher was ill-prepared and it went horribly awry. An explosion caused serious injury to a student and multi-million dollar lawsuits. Although it was accident and the teacher had no history of similar negligence, certainly nobody would argue that  she should suffer proportional consequences. Implicit among the options might be termination.

The story has all the makings of a damning expose’ of the Department of Education, as the teacher not only was left unscathed by what occurred, but she was given a new job, with a  $25,000 salary boost, consisting of teaching other instructors how to perform science experiments.  This is so absurd and incriminating of the DOE that it would have made the ideal springboard for a fascinating and revealing piece about the DOE’s standards.

But instead of running with the real story, the Daily News chooses to inject direct and subliminal editorial cues to instruct the reader how to react rather than to show them the respect to make up their own minds. Their editorializing creates a diversion and the original facts of the case become secondary.

For example, the reporter writes that “Instead of firing her…”, which is obviously what he personally feels is due. We know that the Daily News has been big on dismissing employees lately, but the science teacher wasn’t one of their staff writers.

Tabloids tend to lead their readers by the nose through a garden of faux-fact landmines. The reporter writes that the teacher “found a pot of cash and a cushy job at the end of the rainbow experiment that burned two students.” He couldn’r resist a play on words, as it was a so-called “rainbow” experiment that exploded.

It happened four years ago.  The Special Commissioner of Investigation did not determine that firing the teacher was warranted. Her new position was not necessarily a promotion. It is unclear whether the salary increase came with the title or was otherwise contractually due her based on accrued experience and successfully completed advanced academic preparation.  The DOE, in its infinite ignorance, didn’t realize that the teacher was a bad fit for her new duties and her being assigned them was ludicrously inappropriate and ironic.

But calling the role of “instructional leader” a “plumb gig” is an interpretation that should be out-of-bounds for a beat reporter. Whether or not it is, is besides the point. By the way, it is a “plumb gig” only in the eyes of those who have no idea what it entails.

Whenever there is a negative story about a New York City teacher, the Daily News quo tes the same reliable critics from its stable of like-minded activists, such as one individual who deems the career survival of the teacher “outrageous, ludicrous and insulting”, which is “typical DOE. That’s what they do, reward poor performance.”

There are many other instances of skewered reporting in the Daily News.

The shocking damage caused by the science teacher’s classroom experiment should not be minimized and is a legitimate, indeed compelling story for the media.  Instead of wringing the story for all its considerable inherent worth, the News went into default mode.
The specifics of the narrative should not be tinged, obscured and co-opted by editorial proclivities, which is the Daily News’ trademark.

New York’s Hometown Balderdash should invest in a primer on journalism and dispense it to its newshounds. We know that Church and State must be separate.  So should be editorials from avowedly objective accounts of events.

Ron Isaac

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