How the media help spread Cami’s lies

Cami AndersonYou have to hand this to Cami Anderson–she knows how to control the main-stream media. And not just her besotted swain at The Star-Ledger who often acts as if she were the Lady Guinevere and he was Sir Lancelot galloping to save her from burning at the stake. On NJTV, the Adubato/Christie television enterprise that won’t even talk about how The Star-Ledger has left Newark, Anderson is treated like a Mel Brooks version of an oracle whose evasive answers cannot be challenged. “How many parents stayed home from school the first day?” the anchor asked. Cami  answered a different question and the anchor obediently never brought the question up again.

Sigh. This was the profession I believed stood between freedom and tyranny. Now I watch The Star-Ledger morph into a daily campaign sheet for Chris Christie, spending scarce resources to send reporters trailing after him, delivering up breathless  reports about how he wowed them Arkansas to Mexico. Our Jersey guy could be president! Wowzah! Think of the clicks!

Sadly, even National Public Radio (NPR) gets a case of the Jell-O legs when it reports on Cami Anderson and her big strong Jersey Guy, Chris Christie. Recently, it allowed Anderson to repeat what she had told many media during impromptu press conferences on the first day of school.

This lie: Enrollment is up by 1,000 students.

It’s a lie. Some more polite than I might call it a half-truth or just a technical lie but I have had experiences with Anderson lies–remember how she denied sending out that letter about how kids would become criminals if they stayed home from school, the one she denied sending out? How she insisted she lived in Newark?

A reader sent in this response to her lie and I am passing it on to you: “There was a report on NPR yesterday and today which essentially honored Anderson for adding 1000 new students …”the most in decades” they said…but while this is true, the reason is not so terrific. Washington decided to defund a Head Start program in Newark and 1000 of those preschool slots were handed over to NPS. These children were technically NPS students already since they were in centers that were in a collaboration with NPS. Now instead of going to a small center in their neighborhood, they are going to a converted elementary school. This is not a bad thing since some of the centers were not in great shape. But to say that she alone added 1000 students to the student population is not telling the whole story truthfully. By the way, one of the centers that lost funding through HS was accredited by a national organization that ranks quality. Other accredited centers were in a collaboration with the HS grantee. Several of the teachers had been either runners up or won Teacher of the Year in the NPS year end awards for several years. NPS took some of these teachers along with the children.”

See? There was a much bigger story there. NPR not only missed the story but also allowed Anderson to use it to praise herself and her disastrous “One Newark” plan.

Sort of like that mythical 10,000-student waiting list the Newark charters supposedly have, the one Sir Lancelot–who now believes a little charter-caused racial segregation is okay in Hoboken– keeps reciting without ever explaining or analyzing. Talk about conspiracy theories! Why would someone keep repeating that lie about the waiting list when genuine commentators on the issue, like Mark Weber (Jersey Jazzman), exploded that myth months ago.

Why do reporters do things like that? Why do they accept nonsense and just repeat it, spreading the lie? Why do they call a plan that disperses kids involuntarily throughout Newark “choice”? Why do they insist on using the word “reform” when it is a controverted change, not a reform?

Well, certainly, not all do. The Star-Ledger–or whatever the entity is called now–still employs some reporters whose skills date back to a different time. But education is not a beat jealously sought after by reporters so, as a consequence, it often lands in the laps of the youngest, least experienced reporters, those who don’t have much of a history of the subject. And are afraid of their often clueless–or extremely biased– editors.

There also is an ethic that requires all reporters to give “both sides” to a story when, in fact, there is only one side to a story. Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize-winning economist, often writes about it–as does Eric Alterman of The Nation. It dictates that reporters treat both sides of a controversy as equally valid and so have to be treated with equal respect.

That’s nonsense, of course, as Krugman has pointed out. He uses the example of “Earth is round, others disagree” to show the absurdity of such a position. Most recently in Newark, we had some media outlets reporting that Kristin Towkaniuk, the head of the Newatk Students Union, “said” her wrist was broken in an altercation with a cop. Despite video showing the scene. Reporters are just afraid.

The main-stream media also are afraid of losing access to sources and, therefore, access to stories. Several times in my career–now is one of them–I’ve angered enough people so that the usual sources–I almost said the “usual suspects”–won’t talk to me. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, New Jersey had an education commissioner named Fred G. Burke who hated me so much he made what amounted to a voo-doo doll of me and stuck an enormous screw through it. Because he hated me so much, the people who hated him became great sources for me. I missed the stories  that were really public relations gambits, but got better stories from whistle-blowers.

David Hespe, his successor, and his PR flaks, no longer answer questions I pose to them. I believe Hespe is a cowardly hack who will do whatever Chris Christie asks of him. I also believe he deliberately misled Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and top officials of the Newark Teachers Union (NTU) and the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) into believing he would get rid of Anderson when, all along, he meant to keep her at his puppet-master’s behest. I know other reporters believe that, too, but they don’t dare say it. So he is angry at me–as are some people at the NTU and the NJEA. Oh, well, I guess I will have to live without their friendship.

(In an earlier version of this blog, I wrote a few words about the NTU and its chief organizer, with whom I have had differences. Those differences were clarified and I deleted the reference. I will not, however, delete my reference to Pietro Petino, a man with whom I had serious differences but we always managed somehow to treat each other with respect.  If he didn’t like something I wrote, and he often didn’t,  he told me to my face. He was quite a guy.)

But I digress.

The point is there are many reasons the main-stream media suck up to people in power and to Cami Anderson and Chris Christie specifically. So, just be careful when you read their stuff–and be careful when you read mine. I have biases. Beliefs in what is right and what is wrong.  So do other, more conventional reporters and their editors, but they won’t or can’t admit to them–or they don’t even believe that something like false objectivity is a bias itself.

The earth is round.

Cami Anderson lies.

8 comments

  1. booklady

    Hope the media covers “The Christie Experience” mock town hall on Oct 1st. Funny, when they covered Christie’s daughter going to Notre Dame, they didn’t connect that he was happy to “put down” a teen close in age at Belmar town hall. (Cynics may wonder if Notre Dame offers better ethics instruction than Bridget Anne Kelly’s Catholic college.)

    • NJGS

      Why were schools closed and given to charter schools and teachers displaced if the number of students enrolled in Newark Public Schools has gone up? We were told that the student enrollment was down, which is why schools had to be closed.

      The One Newark Plan doesn’t work, as we all know, on so many different levels.

      Many families have students in more than one building, which means students are being late in one building because the families need to go across town to get their other children into their school building.

      When will something give? When will people start hearing and listening to what you are writing Mr. Braun? When will people besides students and teachers and some parents get involved? I mean really involved, not just nod their heads, agree, and then do nothing to try and make a difference for our young people. Or just write a letter and think that will be it?

      When will the mainstream media pick up on what is happening in Newark? Why aren’t they now, especially with the rumors about the Governor wanting to be the next USA President? Isn’t what is happening in NJ important enough for the rest of NJ and the nation to hear?

      Bob Braun: I wonder all that, too. You can forget help from outside. No one really cares about Newark. It doesn’t have the political clout it once had–look at state Sen. Ron Rice, chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Schools, unable to get subpoenas after Cami told me him to go to hell. If the parents of Newark don’t protest, then it’s all over–and all over for public employee unions, too.

  2. Anna Rivera

    Mr. Braun……I have just retired after 26 years from Newark Public Schools. In those 26 years I taught Special Education. I could have kept teaching for another few years, my health is fine, but I chose to retire now than to have to keep dealing with the bureaucratic nonsense that is going on now In Newark Public Schools. Mr. Braun, you’re reporting is on spot and I am glad that someone out there is standing up to Christie, Cami and all their flunkies. I really appreciate your honesty in telling the REAL story of what is going on in the Newark Public Schools. I wish others would stop and look around and see the disaster that is happening to the children of Newark.

  3. booklady

    When state-appointed Superintendent spoke to media re the 600+ parents who didn’t have school assignments, she referred to NPS “customer service.” Does Harvard Grad School teach that parent relations are akin to refunding a toaster oven? Maybe CA needs to think of “citizen service” and act accordingly.

    • Mr. Outside

      I’m just going to say I disagree with you on the customer service bit. There are several different services that NPS offers to it’s patrons, the citizens of Newark. From a quality control perspective, it makes perfect sense to adopt a consumer model.

      Someone one once explained to me that the failures public education can are the failures of public educators to recognize that they are in every way a part of the hospitality industry as they are the business of education. Comparatively, a roof with warm, running water, plumbing, complimentary toiletries, food service, housekeeping, and door service are offered at fine hotels and public schools. Where Cami misspoke when using the term customer service was when she assumed she was providing it in the first place.

  4. sshaffer

    Dear Bob: Your blog posts re. Barringer and the inability of the press to respond to unchallenged Goebbel’s like untruths of the NPS are eye openers. However, I think there is an area, which has been discussed in passing, needs to be fleshed out- that is the reduction of the NPS’s over all staff, especially bus drivers, cafeteria workers, attendance counselors, guidance counselors, social workers, psychologists, and ,oh yes, class room teachers.
    S.Shaffer

  5. Nikki P

    I recently listened to a very brief interview Anderson gave on WNYC shortly after the first day of school and I agree that the half-truths and spin on reality is rampant. I also notice that the media may ask a question, but its as if her appearances are paid advertisements, the conversations are grossly one-sided with very little feedback or push back from the public, when given a limited opportunity to pose a question to her. A dog and pony show. I don’t know how many folks could digest the swill that is being fed to the public and accepted as truth. I find it quite disrespectful that she can find time to go on the media circuit around the country to campaign her “success” but has yet, as far as I understand, adequately addressed the very people being affected right here at home. By the way, does anyone know if any action was taken regarding Anderson’s violation of regulations regarding her absence from School Advisory Board General meetings, you know, the ones where a great number of the folks she is talking about attend and have the opportunity to speak and tell it like it is? I know…I should know the answer-one that follows a common theme.
    This is the interview:
    https://www.nyc.org/radio/#ondemand/399957

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