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Thread: Why you need to be careful what you read and what you believe

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    726

    Exclamation Why you need to be careful what you read and what you believe

    The Town Crier posted an article yesterday in which the Superintendent explained how nothing has changed in the status of The Children's Way.

    This seems like an odd thing for a Superintendent to have to talk about -- I mean, the fact that a program hadn't changed, in some weird illegal way that might have sidestepped all the laws and been sneaky. I mean, why should he have to talk about what hasn't happened?

    The reason is that a "news"letter that is written in town suggested that Children's Way had been converted to a private school. Here's what they wrote (this is somewhat shortened because it's a longish segment, but you can read the full version here):

    Quote Originally Posted by Wayland Voters Network

    The Children’s Way appears to have been [emphasis added] recently reclassified as a private school. Though it is on town property and staffed by school employees, it applied for and was granted private school status by the state without consultation with the School Committee at a public meeting.

    [....]

    If the program is now classified as a private school, why are its employees still receiving Town salaries and benefits? If the application to privatize The Children’s Way was unauthorized, why did Fertig misrepresent that the Wayland School Committee met and voted this action to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education? Why was this information withheld from the School Committee and the public? Are there other consequences of private school status?

    There are larger questions. Have these programs paid the full cost of using town facilities and manpower? Should they? If fee-based programs incur debt, as is now the case with The Children’s Way, can taxpayers be forced to subsidize them, and then what legal authority does the School Committee have? Should these programs be privatized and operated as 501(c)3 nonprofits to negate all long-term liability to Wayland’s taxpayers, (as was done, for example, in Lexington)?
    So a few lessons here for readers and journalists alike:
    1. Writers who get a bunch of random facts and combine them into a story without consulting potential sources (such as, for example, the people mentioned in the article) are lazy. Their stories are often wrong or misleading.
    2. Phrases such as "appears to have been" (see first sentence quoted above) are red flags that you are getting someone's guess at what might be happening and not real, actual facts.
    3. When a writer asks lots of questions and doesn't provide any answers, they are trying to lead you to answers. But the questions may not be relevant and might be misleading you. A writer can make it sound like something really problematic is happening by asking questions that almost force you to assume sketchy things. The questions themselves might be meaningless.
    When you are seeing these techniques - writing that hints at things but doesn't actually say them, phrasing that suggests things that are possible without actually saying they are true, questions without answers that suggest the possibility of problems -- this is propaganda. Don't mistake it for news.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Posts
    165

    Default

    Kim - Thanks for the interesting post. Your observations are spot on and extremely well stated. I saw the "news" article and immediately dismissed it as rubbish, but I hadn't considered all the points that you make above that characterize virtually all of the "news" articles from the source referenced. For the life of me I can't understand why the participants in that "news"letter feel the need to negatively portray everything that happens in Wayland. I actually like living here, and find the town to be exceptionally well run. It would be nice if the nay side of town would just take a deep breath and relax!

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