Fair Media Crucial

The Southerner

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By Sam Weinstock

What happens when the media, overzealous in its attempt to print stories, runs a series of articles on our school board and superintendent which deteriorate into nothing more than sensationalized muckraking?

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s coverage of the controversy surrounding APS’ Blue Ribbon Report on CRCT Erasures and alleged misrepresentation of graduation rates offers a prime example of such a travesty. For more than two weeks in August, as well as intermittently over the summer, you couldn’t glance at an AJC front page without seeing a glaring headline accusing APS or Superintendent Beverly Hall of one thing or another. Whether it was by referring to the Blue Ribbon Report as a “botched investigation” without substantiation, or by printing an article accusing the school board of a massive conspiracy without a single quote from a board member, or any indication of an attempt to get one, the AJC has repeatedly exhibited a desire to put our school system to shame.

Perhaps its worst transgression was an Aug. 17 article that took a memo from the Chamber of Commerce president and declared that it raised questions about the independence of the investigation, as if it would have been possible to have a commission so independent that they were never told what they were to do. But sometimes it didn’t even take a six-month-old email to make a story. On Aug. 22, the AJC ran what was essentially a list of every scandal that occurred under Hall’s watch as superintendent, including a budget controversy she supervised as a Newark, N.J., superintendent 10 years ago.

With Cynthia Tucker demanding Hall’s resignation, it becomes ever more obvious that the AJC editorial board wants to take shots at the system in both the opinion and news sections. Perhaps it has a bone to pick with the school board or Hall. Perhaps it believes that making assumptions about elected officials’ intent or motives makes for a good story. Perhaps it’s desperate to put something important on the front page that isn’t syndicated by the Associated Press. Either way, one-sided yellow journalism does students, teachers, administrators and most importantly, taxpayers, no good. More than ever, we need to be able to rely on a newspaper where, as the AJC describes itself on its “conversation” blog, truth and facts will rule the day.

This story earned a Superior rating in the Board Editorial category at the Georgia Scholastic Press Association Awards Assembly on April, 28, 2011.

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