Friday, November 5, 2010

How To Lie Without ACTUALLY Lying

I've been away, and have now been catching up on my daily thrill of writing about the The Moncton TandT. It was about October 20 that a real gem appeared.

In protest against the closing of Moncton High (it was structurally dangerous) and the general shifting of elementary and high school students which followed, there was a well advertised rally of affected and angry parents who blamed the local schools administration and the DEC (an elected body representing parents) for the problem. Evidently, the assignment editor at the TandT decided this was the big story of the day because Tand T reporters took bushels of notes of angry protest and denunciation aimed at DEC and the superintendent of schools.

Actually, those education people had nothing to do with it. The reality is that New Brunswick schools have been so starved for funds to provide even basic education that students now have to be billed even for office paper. Almost all schools have obvious signs of serious neglect of maintenance. That's not the DEC or the Superintendent. That's the government and the minister of education. It's also the corporations who fund both the Liberals and Conservatives, and who make it clear they want taxes kept down, and to hell with the safety of children.

However, an assignment editor with bills to pay has to remember that the newspaper ownership smiles on any news that puts the public schools into a bad light. So reporters were assigned to the protest. The next day, the story was front page with another, almost full page, inside. The bulk of it was interviews with angry parents blaming the DEC and the Superintendent. That's the sort of coverage for a really big story - like another geriatric rock group coming to Moncton or, perhaps, the beginning of World War Three. (If they happened on the same day, World War Three would probably get only a brief mention under the daily list of celebrity birthdays.)

In fact, it wasn't a big story at all. The total number of angry parents was 20. Count them. Twenty. That's something less than one percent of all the parents affected by the changes. Ninety-nine percent didn't care enough to show up.

The Times story, being "honest", mentioned there were only twenty. But that didn't matter. The final message of the story could only be that DEC and the superintendent were in trouble for neglect -and that public schools were inefficient. The unwritten message was "we need more privatization."

Lying without ACTUALLY lying is unethical. But it's common in almost all North American newspapers - and more than a few overseas.

As it happened, I presented a report at the DEC meeting that same night. There was a reporter at the back of the room, and another, right in front of me, who was a senior writer for the Tand T. I issued a copy of a government survey to parents. This survey has a response of 99%. (Compare that to the protest rally.) It showed almost 90% parent approval of New Brunswick schools. I also presented evidence that the UN ranks the Canadian public schools with those of the top four countries of the world. The UN now places US education in tewnty-fifth spot, under Slovenia. (But the US system is the one The Times and, presumably, its ownership wants us to copy.)

Despite the presence of two reporters at least, not a word of what I said appeared - or ever will appear - in The Times. Watch them for more news about how terrible our schools are, and how much better it would be if we followed the wise leaders of the puppet clowns at Atlantic Insitute for Market Studies.

No comments:

Post a Comment