Looking for Some Journalistic Objectivity

Jay Mathews has been an education writer and columnist at the Washington Post for decades. But the degree of journalistic objectivity in his work has been on a steep downward slope for most of that time.

Take, for example, his column in today’s paper in which he reviews a new book about charter schools that focuses on the KIPP network.

Jim Horn is the most vocal critic of our nation’s (and the District’s) largest nonprofit charter school network, KIPP. Among journalists, I am KIPP’s most enthusiastic supporter.

Is someone calling themselves a “journalist” supposed to be an “enthusiastic supporter” of one side in a story they’re covering? Just askin’

Anyway, Mathews goes on to criticize the author for being one-sided, and then proceeds to take the other side, supporting KIPP management against the “research and personal accounts” in the “252-page book”. Personal accounts that includes “long excerpts from interviews with 23 former KIPP teachers”.

Now, I have not read this particular book (I’ve read other works about KIPP, both critical and favorable), and have no idea if the author’s material makes a compelling case against KIPP’s educational philosophy and how it’s executed in their schools. It’s very possible his book does belong to the “great tradition of American polemics” and is a total hatchet job.

However, Mathews’ “enthusiastic” support for KIPP’s program, based in part on visits to 42 of their schools and his observation of instruction as a non-educator who has never taught, does the reader of his Post column (in the Metro section and not labeled as opinion) a disservice.

He’s hardly in a position to call for another writer to be objective about his subject matter.

4 Comments Looking for Some Journalistic Objectivity

  1. Jenny

    Thank you for reading this piece. I saw it in my RSS reader and couldn’t bring myself to do it. Your analysis seems to suggest it’s exactly what I would have expected it to be.

  2. J.D.

    My biggest concern with Charter Schools in general is the 100 day drop. The district I work in ends up with a bunch of students that are pushed out of charter schools after the 100th day hits and the funding for that student goes to the charter. It’s not a good practice for students. If the charter is not a good fit for that student, I’m sure they figured that out before the 100th day.

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