The Albuquerque Journal’s Intentional Failure to Cover K-12 Education

A rest day on the bike tour offers a chance for the legs to recover, but also allows the mind to get something off its chest, so to speak.

I’ll start with an insipid observation: The Albuquerque Journal does a supremely awful job of covering K-12 education in New Mexico. If Pulitzer had a Razzie, that worst film/actor/actress parody of the Oscars, the Journal would stand a damn good chance of winning the Education Beat award. Hands down.

By the way, let’s call that Razzie award the “Skandera.”

The Journal‘s win of a Skandera (and in that juxtaposition lies much of the problem) is the result of an uncertain, yet surely massive, level of libertarian-meets-Koch education “reform” mania on the part of the paper’s hierarchy, and a distinctly certain low, low, low level of reportage on the subject.

Examples of the latter are epidemic. Let’s take a brief look at the latest example of the disease’s symptoms.

About two weeks ago, Journal education “reporter,” Kim Burgess tweeted what might be considered a “scoop.” New Mexico’s PARCC standardized test scores for 2016-2017 were coming out.  They were coming out months earlier than in previous years, something Ms. Burgess also noted in a tweet.

Regardless of what one thinks of PARCC and/or standardized testing in general, this news is generally considered worthy of reporting, particularly the resultant data and reaction to it from those in the field of K-12 education.

So, a few days pass, and your humble blogger doesn’t see any news reports about the resultant data or any reactions to that data. What’s up? So I send a tweet message to Ms. Burgess and here is the extent of that conversation of sorts:

parcc and nothing.png

The end. And apparently nothing reported since, at least that I can find in my searching about.

So what? What, if anything, is wrong with this picture? Well, if you’re not a K-12 teacher and/or interested in day-to-day coverage of education issues, there’s not. Trouble is, some are, and the “K-12 education beat” is the place to research and probe into those day-to-day developments that might lead to, in this instance, to stories with headlines like:

“Local Teachers Respond to Their Student PARCC Scores”

“First Look Gives APS Hope/Despair Regarding Scores”

“Outgoing NMPED Secretary Responds to Score Reports Right as She Quits Because If We Waited a Week or Two She Would Be Gone Already and Maybe That’s Why We Ain’t Reporting Anything About How Bad These Scores Are in the First Place”

Yes, I realize the last headline is too long and that I would make a lousy copy editor/headline writer. That’s okay, I guess, as even the New York Times seems about to do away with the job of copy editor, anyway.

The point is that incomplete, developing stories, such as the PARCC score roll-out, are still stories, and that those in the field, and even some who are or have kids in the public schools, will want to know how those scores look at first glance and what people think about them.

Instead, the Journal, as “Paper of Record,” chooses to simply serve as NMPED press release regurgitant. The only “news” is what is in the release, and anything not “covered” there isn’t considered news until NMPED says it is.

Later, after that subsequent release and regurgitation of the proscribed NMPED narrative on what the scores “mean,” the Journal will almost certainly continue another irritatingly lazy practice of reportage. It will ask the teacher’s union what it thinks, then write a regurgitation of the NMPED press release as verbal brackets around an adversarial quote or two from the Union in a systematic 3/4 NMPED, 1/4 Union ratio.

Yes, I think we call all see into the journalistic future regarding this or any Journal story about K-12 education in NM. This achingly inert formula has been the invariable norm since at least the first days of the Martinez Administration.

Even more troubling than the formulaic and NMPED-weighted aspects of this practice is the damn lazy reportage involved. Many K-12 teachers in New Mexico are members of the teacher’s union(s), but just as many are not. Moreover, many members and non-members do NOT agree with everything stated by Union presidents and spokespersons.

There is a nuance and continuum of NM teacher thoughts and feelings about issues in education that readers here almost never get to experience due to the fact that only NMPED and “The Union” have their voices heard. And, of course, those voices are both shrill, dysfunctionally adversarial, and, perhaps most important, damn boring.

The result is a turgid, formulaic waste of newsprint. The only thing accomplished is the perpetuation of the Journal/NMPED/Koch v. Teacher Union “war” narrative, with thoughtful and effective public policy one of many resultant victims. Is this intentional, and does it, in fact, accomplish a libertarian aversion to “public education”?

Yes. Of course it does.

Put in fairly current Internet parlance, I see what you’re doing there, Albuquerque Journal. And it’s both so boring and so glaringly obvious that one is surprised anybody is falling for it. Then again, not everyone is a K-12 educator and not all students and their parents have enough time and interest to closely follow what’s included and what’s left out, most deliberately, in such reports.

Thus, this is where we are, and will continue to be as long as our “Paper of Record” simply works for NMPED, instead of thoroughly reporting what NMPED and others in K-12 education here are in the business of doing.

2 thoughts on “The Albuquerque Journal’s Intentional Failure to Cover K-12 Education

  1. Yes @”Teacher Summit” an Oh & Ah over Parcc scores released early-NOT! & why do we never hear abt Superintendent or Principal effectiveness-always smoke & mirrors and never about Literacy


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