Keeping It Honest When Reporting and Voting
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Reporting The News
I still love this business. Journalism will survive the media upheaval.
Today the industry is threatened with diverse challenges, the greatest of which is maintaining the integrity of the newsroom amid decreasing industry revenues.
The challenge of new media is a challenge to the integrity of journalism itself. The reliance on unedited, unfact-checked blogs, websites or social media as a source of news has cheapened the entire industry. The acceptance of the content offered online without proper vetting has diminished the value of news and has diminished society itself in the process.
News, as I was brought up, must be gathered, fairly and accurately reported, double sourced, fact checked and edited by professionals before being disseminated. Today’s fast paced world seems to reward those who go from gathering to dissemination the quickest and disregards the process of verifying the accuracy, impartiality or facts.
But at the heart of quality journalism are quality reporters. The curious, tenacious and often over-zealous truth seekers who are driven to break a story and see their name on it will ensure that journalism survives.
While we in the profession struggle to balance doing a high quality job of reporting the news with paying the bills, star reporters will continue to report the news and break stories.
We all just witnessed one such instance.
Simmi Aujla, a 2009 graduate of Brown University, joined the staff of Politico, a relitively new Washington D.C. newspaper, less than half a year ago. This rookie reporter broke the story that got Keith Olberman suspended from MSNBC. Hours after Aujla’s story reported that Olberman had contributed to three Democratic candidates, he was suspended without pay for violating the station’s policy.
Not surprising, the story about the story can best be found by following Ms. Aujla’s tweets.
While we are confused about the very partial station’s policy of impartiality, there is no confusion about the importance or impact of a quality reporter or news story.
The New Voting Machines
Sadly, the election is not over. As political junkies in New York watch too many too-close-to-call races in the State Senate and one Congressional on the east end, I can’t help but wonder what advantage was gained by the purchase of new voting machines at a cost of some gazillion dollars. Sure the Feds waive the funds in the State’s face, but who made sure that we were buying something that ensured more accurate, quicker counts, easier recounts and, ah yes, privacy.
|Privacy? Congressman Weiner’s ballot is
visible during the scanning process.
On the privacy level, my two encounters with the machine leave me uncomfortable about privacy during the scanning process. I felt very much like Congressman Anthony Weiner might have felt if he did not invite Trib photographer Ira Cohen to shoot him during the voting process. But when he did, was Weiner aware that a blow up of a picture of his ballot would reveal how he voted?
With a two-sided ballot in New York City, there really was no way to prevent nearby eyes from catching a glimpse of your filled-in ovals.
We haven’t researched the process or the names of those involved in selecting the new machines but are pretty darn sure that at the end of the day, there was some very wellpaid lobbyist who absolutely earned his or her outrageous fee by convincing some well-meaning elected officials – many of whom received generous contributions bundled by the lobbyist – that privacy was not an issue with these new machines . . . nor was accuracy, recount speed or anything for that matter.
Sadly, for a once-in-a-lifetime purchase by the government of new voting machines, I am very disappointed.
At least with the old machines when you opened the curtain which provided privacy and comfort, you could hear your vote being counted.
Maybe I just don’t like change?MSchenkler@QueensTribune.com
Unweighted by Experience, Cathie Black Seeks Waiver
By HENRY STERN
The prospect for the granting of a waiver to Cathie Black so she can serve as New York City’s school chancellor may have dimmed a bit in the past several days.
For one thing, the New York Times reported, that the man who will decide whether to grant the waiver, State Education Commissioner David M. Steiner, “will convene a screening panel consisting of representatives of the State Education Department and educational organizations to make a recom-mendation.” The commissioner’s spokesman “would not speculate on how long that would take.”
For another, two of Chancellor Joel Klein’s deputies have announced their resignations, and others are expected to leave as well. One reason cited in favor of Ms. Black was that the Klein management team would be available to assist her as she familiarized herself with the educational universe.
No truly independent screening panel of educators is likely to conclude that no experience whatsoever in their professional field is adequate preparation for the most difficult and complex job in local public education. If they felt that way, they would be expressing the view that their own professional qualifications had little value, and that any corporate executive could fill the positions they now hold.
This does not mean that Ms. Black will not receive the necessary waiver. The Commissioner and his screening panel may be responsive to the wishes of a higher authority. Mayor Bloomberg wants the waiver, and carloads of movers and shakers will be influenced by his wishes. There is a strong argument that, since the law provides for mayoral control, and the first element of control is selecting the head of the enterprise, this appointment is his call.
There are also many people who believe that some schools are ungovernable, and some children uneducable, and that giving the mayor a free ride on the chancellorship would make it easier to fix the blame on him if a less than satisfactory outcome results.
Mayor Bloomberg has previously shown his distaste for technical, legal standards. When Patricia Lancaster resigned as Commissioner of Buildings in 2008, the law required that the Commissioner of the department be an architect or engineer. The mayor’s choice, Deputy Commissioner Robert LiMandri, was neither. He solved that problem by having the City Council pass a local law repealing the requirement. Mr. LiMandri is now the Commissioner and he is well regarded.
The Schools Chancellor’s position is one that is a target for year-round assault by various groups. The politically correct term for them is “stakeholders;” the pejorative description, “special interests.” Public officials begin with a modest reserve of good will, which is depleted over time as group after group is dissatisfied because their particular demands are not being met.
Ambitious politicians boast about their concern for education; photographs of children decorate their mailers. Some of these friends of education, however, do not go so far as actually voting for additional funds, or giving the Chancellor the power to manage the system.
In view of these hazards and obstacles, it could be said that the Chancellor, an official whose importance is comparable to that of the police commissioner, should be a person of impeccable and undisputed credentials, a Horace Mann of the 21st century, if such a person could be found and persuaded to take the job. To select a chancellor with no background whatsoever in education is certainly a daring leap of faith.
It is true that Mayor Bloomberg himself, a successful business executive, had no experience in government before he was first elected mayor in 2001. Since he has basically been a good mayor (he was re-elected twice, has generally appointed and removed commissioners on the merits, has run a scandal-free administration, and innovated in public health and environmental issues), it is understandable for him to believe that others who have achieved great success in business can use their talents to succeed in the public sector.
A perennial problem in the field of education is credentialism. Schools for teachers award degrees routinely, and school boards may require those degrees as qualifications for being hired. It is too often the case that possession of a degree has little relationship to ability to teach in a classroom. Buteven those who reject credential-ism may support minimal standards for people who hold important positions in educational administration. Credentials may not have intrinsic value, but they do provide a veneer of protection for the qualified and unqualified alike.
The elusive qualities of managerial judgment and the ability to lead and inspire may be present in Cathie Black. If she gets the waiver, she will have the opportunity to demonstrate them. But will her skills be sufficient to improve educational outcomes for over a million children?StarQuest@NYCivic.org