You 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.