A naive faith in National Propaganda Radio (NPR)

Recently when I was visiting Chicago public schools and interviewing Chicago public school teachers, I realized that one of the questions I had to begin asking — everyone — was what media they now trusted.

Generally, Chicago teachers know that the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune publish regular propaganda on behalf of corporate school reform, charter schools, and the Daley administration’s agenda of teacher bashing, union busting, and privatizing public education in Chicago.

Even though teachers rely on newspapers and magazines for information about what is happening elsewhere (from Iraq to sports), they do not believe Chicago’s press covers public schools fairly. First credence is give to personal experience and friends, followed by blogs and a few other sources on the Internet.

But there was one place in media they still relied on for accuracy. The answer, almost unanimously, was “public broadcasting” — NPR and PBS.

When I asked why, they said that at least the NPR reporters bothered to interview rank-and-file teachers when they were covering stories about Chicago’s public schools. Recent examples included the stories on the closing of Englewood High School in Chicago and the coverage of the controversies on the recent CTU contract.

They told me they assumed the same was true when PBS personalities went out on stories like the “Merrow Report” on No Child Left Behind.

When asked whether they relied on the reporting in the “Chicago Union Teacher”, even members of Marilyn Stewart’s United Progressive Caucus laughed. “Let’s see. One fact I’d like to know...” one UPC member told me when I asked what would be interesting to read in the union’s official newspaper.

“Substance publishes the salaries of the top officials at Clark St. from Arne Duncan on down.,” was the answer. “Why doesn’t the union newspaper publish the complete pay and benefits of everyone working at the Merchandise Mart? Everything...”

“We’re off the record on that, right? After all, I’m UPC...” the teacher added. 


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