Embattled WBEZ Ed Team Rakes It In

Commercial journalism may be in trouble, and nonprofit startups may still be too small and new to know what's going to happen to them in the long haul, but in the meantime it seems like public radio stations are filling in at least some of the void.   No surprise then that there were scads of education stories and reporters among the winners at the recent Public Radio News Directors Inc. awards ceremony in Cleveland, including lots of recognition for WBEZ's education team. Ironically, WBEZ may lose Becky Vevea from the education desk and media coverage of schools is under attack from NYU school reform critic Diane Ravitch.

Chicago Public Radio's Linda Lutton won the Best Writing award, and she was part of the team that won the Breaking News category for the WBEZ stories covering the teachers strike last year (and also part of the team that did the This American Life you remember from earlier this spring).

Other examples: Georgia Public Radio won 2nd place for News Features for its story on Georgia schools making Mandarin mandatory, and WLRN Miami won for its story on spanking in rural Florida schools. WSHU won 2nd place for Breaking News coverage of the Sandy Hook elementary shooting, which WBEZ won for its strike coverage.

Click the link above to see the full list, which unfortunately doesn't include links to the pieces.  Or, click the Soundcloud above and listen to one of Luttons' other pieces, about the impact of violence on a Chicago principal.

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  • Diane Ravitch's post was very problematic. It's dated June 30 and it is still discussing the proposed closing of Mahalia Jackson Elementary School which was taken off the closure list weeks ago. Even more goofy was the claim that deaf and hearing impaired children who would have been attending Jackson would "be sent to a school that is more than an hour’s walk away," when every one of these particlular students has a legal entitlement to busing contained in their IEPs.

    I was at Mahalia Jackson school on May 3 and I met with the principal and I was deeply impressed with that school's program and so was the CPS Board I suspect hence its removal from the closing list. As some of you know Access Living formally opposed the closing of three schools of which Jackson was one. Ms. Ravitch's post was exceptionally dumb given the fact of how many other schools that are being closed which also had unique populations of students which are going to be challenging to integrate into new schools.

    Lastly I do not agree that Chicago's media failed to cover the school closing story effectively. Even the Tribune whose editorial board repeatedly voiced its support for the school closings had numerous articles very critical of both the selection process and claims of cost savings made by CPS officials. Catalyst, the Reader, and the Sun Times ran equally critical stories. WTTW even did stories that posed questions about the closures.

    Were any of these major news outlets as critical as the stories that came out of Substance, I think the answer is no. Substance is an advocacy based reporting service and it does a good job reporting from its perspective. I often agree with that perspective, but sometimes not. None the less I think Ms Ravitch's criticism of media coverage here in Chicago on the school closings was overall incorrect in my opinion.

    Rod Estvan

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