By Caroline Grannan, parent activist
The fun of getting interviewed by a hostile though icily courteous New York Times reporter. This is a follow-up to my earlier post marking the 15th anniversary of the Edison Schools controversy in San Francisco, which launched me as a mommy volunteer critic of so-called education “reform” until I had to withdraw from advocacy activities for purposes of putting food on the table:
For reasons that are still not clear to me, the controversy over one single charter school in San Francisco run by the once-hailed, now fizzled for-profit Edison Schools became a national news story, and the New York Times sent reporter Ed Wyatt to S.F. to do a Page 1 report on it. In February 2001, he contacted fellow mommy volunteer activist Dana Woldow and me and invited us to lunch downtown to interview us. (We were running a volunteer research-and-information project on Edison.)
Wyatt was polite but chilly and skeptical of everything we had to say. Eating lunch under those circumstances was a new experience for me. My kids had just had the stomach flu and I started getting seriously nauseated, assuming I’d caught what they had, and was planning my apparently impending emergency dash out of the restaurant. But I managed to make it through lunch, and the minute he coolly thanked us for our time and said goodbye, the nausea vanished and I was fine.
It’s too dismaying to look at Wyatt’s story again. I’ll just note that he misunderstood or distorted points that Dana and I were making (and again, we were mommy volunteers, challenging a profit-making operation backed by wealth and power). And he quoted Edison founder Chris Whittle as saying no clients besides San Francisco had ever tried to sever their contracts with Edison, as gospel, and didn’t question or check the claim — which was completely untrue. And the Times never ran a correction.
Then a few months later, Times reporter Jacques Steinberg started covering Edison, and he investigated and debunked the company’s false claims and basically blew up the BS. Any Times readers following the coverage closely must have been really confused at the sudden shift in the tone of the coverage.