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Campbell Brown, the pretty, telegenic journalist who was once a talking head for CNN, has launched herto report and opine on education issues with a strong point of view. It is called The 74 Million, referring to the 74 million children below the age of 18. You can expect to read and hear about the glories of charter schools, vouchers, privatization, and Teach for America. You should not expect to see any good news about public education, unions, or veteran teachers.
Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Dick and Betsy DeVos Foundation, Daniel S. Loeb, Jon Sackler, and the Walton Foundation. All of these are well-known supporters of vouchers and charters. Loeb, a billionaire hedge-funder, is the chair of the Board of Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies; Sackler started a charter chain; the Walton Foundation pours about $150 million a year into vouchers and charters and Teach for America; Betsy DeVos founded American Federation for Children, which zealously advocates for vouchers; Jonathan Sackler, a wealthy equity investor, is a leader in the Connecticut and national charter school movement.
Two of our best bloggers have reacted to The 74 Million.
Jennifer Berkshire, aka EduShyster,who applied for a job with The 74. She was told that the 74 news service needed investigative journalists but they would not cover subject of charter school scandals. She shared her story with EduShyster but insisted on anonymity as revealing her name would be “career suicide.” EduShyster repeatedly reached out to a high-level official at The 74. Eventually he responded and insisted that he could not comment based on a report from an anonymous source. And of course, the site will be “fair and balanced.” Where have we heard that before?
Peter Greene also received the news blast about the arrival of the Campbell Brown news service. Greene is impressed by the professional look of the site and the journalists hired to write for it. Its budget is $4 million but he says it is far slicker than Peter Cunningham’s Ed Post, which was funded by same of the same sources with $12 million.
This is an advocacy site, and “advocacy” is our nice name for PR. It has a point of view that it wants to push, and whether that’s because Brown is a clueless rich dilettante who doesn’t know what she’s talking about or an evil mastermind who’s fronting for her husband and his disaster capitalist friends, either way, this is a site that has a point of view to push. This is no more nor less than we expected. That’s evident just in the choice of topics. One good way to be subtle in slanting news is to provide fairly level coverage– but only of the things you want to talk about….
We’ll see how things play out. If Brown can convince candidates to cue up for her educational summits, she may start looking like a real player in the ed debates, or at least a good mouthpiece for candidates who want to say educationy things without being challenged on their baloney.
But if you had the slightest thought that there would be any surprises at The 74, banish such foolish notions. It’s a slicker package and better buns, but it’s the same old pro-charter, anti-union, pro-privatization, anti-public ed meal inside. I can’t wait till they start covering Brown’s heroic fight to destroy tenure in New York, but I definitely won’t hold my breath waiting for a hard-hitting expose of a charter school scandal.
There is no such thing as advocacy journalism. You cannot, as Brown promises we will, have both. Either you have a journalist’s interest in pursuing the truth, wherever the path leads you, or you have an advocate’s interest in finding support for the position that you have already committed yourself to. It’s one or the other, and for all the journalistic trappings, Brown has chosen the path of the advocate.