How to Spin a Story — Jay Mathews on KIPP Problems
Thomas J. Mertz
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The short version is that the first step in spinning a story is to ignore any information that undermines your position; the second step is to include information that supports your biases, and throughout use every trick in the book to evoke sympathy for your cause. This is to be expected from Public Relations flacks and political spokespeople. It is more problematic when spin of this sort comes from one of the leading educational columnists in the United States, Jay Mathews of the Washington Post. In a recent post that pretends to explore problems at Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools — including physical and emotional abuse, questionable financial management and insecure testing protocols —, Mathews does all of the above, with the twist of appearing to include and address the negative information.
It is no secret that Mathews is a charter cheerleader and champion of KIPP schools. His columns and recent book have made that much clear. Opinions and a viewpoint are to be expected from columnists. However, think an ethical line is crossed when – as in Mathews “Turmoil at Two KIPP Schools” — that biased columnist leaves out crucial information while giving the appearance of examining developments contrary to his or her well-established positions. It is a line of trust that is broken and line between journalist and flack that is crossed. . . . .