MEDIA WATCH: New York Times editors take cheap shot at 'Reign of Error...' as Ravitch's book rivals Linda Ronstadt's in shooting up on the 'Non-Fiction' Best Seller List

One week after a strong and positive review from Jonathan Kozol in The New York Times Book Review, Diane Ravitch's "Reign of Error..." has shot to Number Ten on The New York Times Bestseller List of hard cover best sellers, and the book's sales are increasing.

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times.But instead of simply using the listing to report the book's contents (or even cite the positive review), the Book Review's editor used their perch to take one last cheap shot at what will prove one of the best selling education books of all time. "Reign of Error," by Diane Ravitch (Knopf)," the entry reads on Page 26 of the national edition (print). "An education scholl denounces what she claims is an effort by foundations, individual billionaires and hedge fund managers to destroy public education."

Not one other book on the list of Nonfiction best sellers in the October 6, 2013 edition of the Times Book Review uses any weasel wordings like "the author claims." Even the thumbnail of the book "Zealot" (about Jesus of Nazareth) leaves out the "alleges" and "claims," while non-fiction books, for example, by Duck Dynasty guys (two are currently on the best seller list for "non-fiction") are treated with a straight face.

Were I still teaching journalism in a public high school, one of my assignments in propaganda detection for my students would be to take a couple of weeks of the blurbs in The New York Times Book Review and try to find others that use cheap shot wordings like "what she claims". The follow up assignment would be to rewrite each of the other entries using weasel-wordings such as the wordings used against Ravitch.

Close readers of The Times Book Review will notice that there is an irony this weekend. Under its "Editors' Choice/ Recent books of particular interest", the same editors, using the full name of the book, write as follows: "Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America's Public Schools," by Diane Ravitch. (Knopf, $27.95). A scholar argues passionately against the attempt to replace public schools with a market system."

Teachers, who are buying and reading "Reign of Error..." in record numbers despite the additional burdens imposed by the corporate reformers in places like Rahm Emanuel's Chicago this year, might want to contact the Times about the confusion among its editors. Is "Reign of Error..." a scholar arguing passionately or a denoucer who "claims..."? Let us know what you hear from them.

A careful reading of the October 6 Book Review fails to yield the name of the editor of the Book Review. But readers miffed by the way The Times is handling a story can always contact the "Public Editor", currently Margaret Sullivan...


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