Compare & Contrast: How PBS & The Seventy Four Responded To Criticism

From Campbell Brown: “I give up. Your @AFTunion donors must really be putting the squeeze on you today.”

I’ve learned in the last six months that there are few folks other than journalists who are more, ahem, responsive to coverage of their work — especially when they feel it’s critical. 

So I guess it should have been no surprise that the folks working at The Seventy Four took offense at my blog post last week suggesting that they needed to do better at funding disclosure if they were going to do media criticism (and that they might not be the best positioned outlet to be taking that on).

Ironically, I agree with the substance of the problematic post, which was that mainstream news outlets should know and disclose to readers when they’re citing a report that comes with a clear and strong ideological/organizational point of view.  

I’ve done much the same countless times with studies and reports that get passed along in the mainstream media.

I’ve also defended The Seventy Four when I felt like it was being covered in ways that didn’t seem appropriate.

What I didn’t predict was that the objections would begin with The Seventy Four’s PR representatives calling and emailing me, then migrate over to emailed objections from editorial staff at the site, and finally become public and hostile on Twitter.

The tweet above from The Seventy Four’s Campbell Brown is where the discussion pretty much ended.

I’m happy to make corrections when I’ve erred and eager to engage in serious discussion about media coverage of education. If necessary, we can discuss it in public. I’m sure there are angles and considerations that I might have missed or under-appreciated. But if and when we don’t agree on some or all of the substance, I don’t think it helps anyone to move over to attacks on character or motive.

It’s not so much that it hurts my feelings but that it looks bad when news outlets defend so heavy-handedly. John Merrow and the PBS NewsHour have both responded substantively (issuing an on-air apology for the Success Academies segment) to legitimate aspects of concerns raised about the NewsHour segment and with some measure of professional restraint — despite being dragged through the mud by Moskowitz (who is still demanding that the segment be taken down). I think that serves them well in the long run, whatever they may think or say about the situation in private.

Related posts: About The Washington Post’s Campbell Brown StoryUnsolicited Advice On The Launch Of “The Seventy-FourNieman Journalism Lab Takes a Deeper LookBest Education Writing Of The Week (October 5-9); Is The Media Mis-Characterizing (Or Just Ducking) Possible (Positive) Impacts Of NCLB?

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.