Transparency On Fact-Checking Might Shed Light On Controversial NYT Oped

This Andrea Gabor oped in the NYT (The Myth of the New Orleans School Makeover) has reform advocates freaking out, appearing as it does in the nation’s most prominent paper and claiming that reform efforts in New Orleans have been exaggerated. 

Coverage of New Orleans school improvement efforts has been a major issue this 10th anniversary summer, with reformers doing their best to make sure that the improvements there (however big or small they may have been) don’t end up tarnished if not discredited in the public mind as so many other education improvement efforts have been over the past ten or fifteen years.

Peter Cook attempted a takedown here. Louisiana state superintendent John White told his version here. The Seventy Four’s Matt Barnum has his version here. Neerav Kingsland airs his concerns about Gabor’s piece (and Malcolm Gladwell’s New Yorker story) here. I’m sure there are others. 

Reform critics have praised the piece just as heartily on social media among other places. 

One irony, of course, is that reform critics have found much to criticize about the paper’s education writing in recent weeks and months. Another minor irony is that, according to her Twitter bio, Gabor occupies a chair at Baruch that’s named after its benefactor, Mike Bloomberg.

So, are reformers’ concerns just sour grapes? Are reform critics’ cheers for the piece warranted?

I’m attempting to figure that out, though I have yet to make much progress. 

I’m told that the Times does indeed fact-check opeds, which is more than many other outlets seem to do these days. You can read a bit about the oped process here, though the post may not be entirely current:

“Yes, we do fact check. Do we do it perfectly? Of course not. Everyone makes mistakes, and when we do we correct them. But the facts in a piece must be supported and validated. You can have any opinion you would like, but you can’t say that a certain battle began on a certain day if it did not.”

I’ve emailed a couple of people at the NYT to see if they can explain the process and some of the substance.

Gabor — identified as a professor of business journalism at Baruch College — has published a followup to her piece. However, she so far has declined to put me in touch with the editor and fact-checker she worked with.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.