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Media: Reporters Should Identify Union Employees, Says Anonymous Blog

NJ_18598An anonymous Montclair New Jersey blog  called "Montclair Schools Watch" noted earlier this week that Maia Davis, apparently one of the most prominent critics of the district and its implementation of the Common Core, has been quoted repeatedly in local media (like the Bergen Record) and started a group critical of reform efforts there without being identified as a UFT communications staffer.  

"It’s probably not a coincidence that one of their most aggressive spokespeople is really a professional spokesperson, employed by the massive teachers union across the river that has been one of the most aggressive in fighting reform efforts."

That's pretty much all I know.  Someone with the same name as Davis IDs herself as such on Twitter (@maia_davis). On Twitter, WSJ reporter Lisa Fleisher says that neither she nor her successor Leslie Brodie quoted Davis in their pieces but that Davis' views shouldn't necessarily be discounted if a reporter says where she works: "Hopefully people strongly believe in their work, so it doesn't hurt to acknowledge that in a story."

Should reporters ask (and pass along) what parent advocates do for their day jobs?  Should advocates identify themselves by where they work or what kind of work they do if it's relevant? My inclination is to say "yes."  The issue has come up in the past, for example in Chicago where parents and teachers were quoted without any indication of their affiliations. Reporters often reach out to the closest, most convenient, and most vocal stakeholders for quotes (rather than the most typical ones), and fail to ID them as such.

Of course, the blog making this point doesn't have any names attached to it, so the point is somewhat undercut. Whether it's "reformy astro turf" (as described by a critic on Twitter) or balanced and responsible, we don't know. And, the person who sent me the item comes from the reform side of the aisle, so there's that, too.



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What about everyone else quoted in every article? Should education so-called "reformers" get to set disclosure standards for the entire field of journalism? And what about spouses, parents, kids etc.? (The reporter who wrote the New Yorker opus on the failure of Newark school so-called "reform" ID's herself as the parent of a KIPP teacher -- which, interestingly, insulates her against the "teachers' union lackey"/"defender of the failed status quo" that all critics of so-called "reform" get hit with.)

And what about commenters here?
My husband is a teacher in urban public schools.
My 86-year-old mother and 96-year-old mother-in-law are both retired teachers drawing pensions.
My children are alumni of urban public schools.
What else?

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