In the relative short existence of LouisianaVoice, we have deliberately avoided antagonizing the so-called mainstream media. First of all, we really don’t even like that term and second, we saw no reason to go out of our way to make additional enemies now that we have been removed from Gov. Jindal and John White’s Christmas card lists.
But today’s (Jan. 15) shameless publication—without proper vetting—of what obviously was a verbatim press release either from Jindal or White’s offices, perhaps both, does a serious disservice to The Advocate’s credibility and is nothing less than an insult to its readers’ intelligence.
The nine-paragraph story, credited to the Capitol News Bureau, is nothing more than a puff piece extolling Louisiana for having the best “policy environments” (whatever that may be) for improving public schools. http://theadvocate.com/home/4857391-125/studentsfirst-group-rates-louisiana-education
While the story does attribute the report to an outfit calling itself StudentsFirst and while it did mention in passing that StudentsFirst is headed by Michelle Rhee, it was woefully inadequate in explaining what—and who—StudentsFirst and Michelle Rhee are.
A maximum of five to 10 minutes of research would have shone a glaring light on both that would have gone far in putting this hoax of a story into its proper perspective.
We feel The Advocate owed that much to its readers.
And it failed. Miserably.
If you think we are feeling smug about this, think again. Investigative reporting, in our simplistic definition, simply means telling the full story. We are truly saddened to see a publication fail so glaringly in its duty to inform fully.
StudentsFirst has poured funds into the campaigns of Board of Elementary and Secondary Education candidates but more important, Rhee was forced out as head of the Washington, D.C. school system in 2010 after reports of widespread cheating on standardized testing surfaced. The episode turned into one of the biggest student test score cheating scandals in the nation and was the subject of a Frontline story on LPB on Jan 8, 2013.
We first reported on this organization and its leader on that date almost exactly a year ago at http://louisianavoice.com/2013/01/08/1st-in-education-reform-%CF%80-yush-john-white-release-glowing-report-from-michelle-rhees-less-than-credible-studentsfirst/ and at http://louisianavoice.com/2013/01/13/%CF%80-yush-white-hawk-yet-another-national-study-lauding-la-education-reform-oops-part-of-study-gives-state-an-f-grade/
Our friend Jason France over at the Crazy Crawfish blog also called out Jindal and White on the (forgive the bad pun) whitewash. http://crazycrawfish.wordpress.com/2013/01/08/1013/
At the time, we commented that we were “being asked to believe Jindal and White when they regurgitate a highly suspect report churned out by Michelle Rhee.”
Some things, apparently never change and now the State Capital’s daily newspaper is allowing itself to be used in such a sordid, unabashed manner.
Shameless. Shameless and sad.
And now, a few hours after first writing this post, we learn that the Lafayette Advertiser ran essentially the same self-serving press release—with no questions asked. The Advertiser even included quotes from Jindal meant to give us all that warm fuzzy feeling. http://www.theadvertiser.com/article/20140114/NEWS01/301140013/Louisiana-ranks-first-nation-education-reforms
At least Washington Post writer Valerie Strauss did a little digging and debunked Rhee and her report, saying that the report “has no solid evidence to back it up” and that The report card “wouldn’t be worth mentioning, except that she (Rhee) remains a force in the public education debate and is able to attract major money from private donors.” Strauss also noted that the fact that criteria used in arriving at the grades are not a factor in improving student achievement “doesn’t seem to matter.”
Good to know there are still a few real reporters out there.