A Revealing & Instructive Response From Salon’s Editor In Chief

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Pullquote from Salon’s editor in chief about coverage of charter schools.

Let’s circle back to last week’s AEI look at media coverage of charter schools for a moment, because a response from one of the rated outlets strikes me as worth noting.

As you may recall, the think tank found a slight tilt against charter schools (in terms of coverage it coded as “negative”) in a handful of mainstream and trade media outlets during 2015.

Among the most consistently hostile to charters, in terms of coverage, were the online sites Slate and Salon (which a few folks still can’t keep apart even after all these years).

Other outlets, including the WSJ and The American Prospect, were not included in this round though may be rated in subsequent updates.

Following up on the report, EdWeek’s Mark Walsh dug out a quote from the editor in chief of Salon, who apparently responded to the AEI report by saying that the “AEI finding that we have nothing good to say about charter schools sounds about right to me!

To many reform advocates, the Salon rating and response confirm what they’ve long believed, which is that the liberal-leaning outlet has assigned and published numerous articles highlighting the perceived and real struggles of some charter schools. 

Indeed, Salon has long run pieces from Jeff Bryant, who has ties to the NEA and AFT that are not clearly indicated in his bio. And Salon’s predictable, relentlessly critical perspective on charter schools (and free pass given to district schools) is not difficult to perceive. 

What jumps out to me, however, is just how glib Salon’s editor in chief is about its coverage slant. There’s no attempt to claim balance, as other outlets who responded to EdWeek made. Taking a critical stance against charter schools is something that the publication seems to feel entirely comfortable with.

The ease of Salon’s response indicates to me that, at least among liberal-leaning journalists and readers, being critical rather than open-minded about charters has become the accepted conventional wisdom.  There’s nothing shameful about it. No apology required. The opposite, in fact. 

Reform advocates can rail all they want about the lack of journalistic balance in this and other outlets when it comes to coverage of education — though Salon is perhaps the least of their worries — but they should also take a moment to grasp what it means when an outlet like Salon is so unabashed about its coverage being unbalanced in the traditional sense, and consider what it’s going to take to win liberal-leaning outlets and readers back over to the idea that schools urgently need improvement rather than protection from reformers’ remedies. 

Related posts: Salon Fails To Disclose Education Writer’s NEA/Labor TiesThink Tank Review Suggests Media Tilt Against Charters.

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.