Sunday, May 23, 2010

This is Pulitzer Prize editorial writing?!

Check out this editorial, which is a perfect example of The Post-Star's typical editorial tone: a snide condescension that treats readers like petulant children.

An editorial that begins:
OK class, put away your cell phones, take out your notebooks, and pay attention. It’s time for review. What did we learn from Tuesday’s school elections?

And concludes:
Tuesday’s election was very educational — for school boards and for the citizens. Let’s hope they don’t forget those lessons at budget time next year. Class dismissed.

Surprisingly, the graphic does not include a wagging finger or a ruler smacking against knuckles.

This obnoxiousness apaprently constitutes Pulitzer Prize-caliber editorial writing in the 21st century.

To the four children on the daily's editorial board, here is a message.

Despite the unexpected absence of grammatical and spelling errors, I'm afraid to inform you that this essay is wholly inadequate.

Your assignment is to re-write it so that it meets the standards expected of a serious newspaper.

This assignment is due on Tuesday morning.

If you fail to turn in the assignment, you risk being...

... dismissed.


Al said...

Hi Brian,

Thanks for a good read, interesting and informative. Wonder what solutions the politicians will be offering this election year to the education challenges faced by NY?

MARQUIL said...

Is there a rational explanation for the Post-Star's preoccupation with the Hadley-Luzerne school district? Their editorial lists budgets from districts as far afield as Newcombe and Long Lake, yet along with the rejection of budgets from H-L and Johnsburg (oblique mention), budgets in Schroon Lake and Ticonderoga were also voted down.

It left me thinking that something about the particulars in those districts did not fit the Post-Star's judgmental narrative. That, or—in true bully fashion—they chose to single out one individual and beat it to a pulp, leaving all others quaking in fear of arbitrary retribution. Or, perhaps the editors just hold some undisclosed personal grudge against Hadley-Luzerne's superintendent.

As for the editorial's criticisms of Hadley-Luzerne, in one paragraph it blames the board for paying attention to attendees of board budget hearings (a very democratic process). Then it turns around and accuses the district of being undemocratic simply because voters had to wait to vote.

Class, can you spell inconsistan. . .er, inkonsi. . .er, inconcis. . .er, quixotic?

Brian F said...

I honestly don't know. One thing I do remember is this. Some years ago, HL got test scores back that were pretty low. The PS did several prominent articles (including some on the front page), at least one hand-wringing editorial and the disgraceful and infamous "Badly Luzer" cartoon. In other words, it made a HUGE deal out of it. The following year, HL's test scores had dramatically improved. The story on that was buried in the middle of the B section. I don't know if this was particular to HL or more generally reflective of their adherence to their agenda, facts be damned.

But what I most object to about the PS is the condescening tone of their editorials (and Tingley's columns). It's telling that even when I agree with them on substance, I'm annoyed by their obnoxious tone.

MARQUIL said...

Oh, you mean this Badley-Luzer cartoon? I thought it was kinda funny, personally (and as your comment suggests, it did do the trick as far as raising test scores goes). The immediate and toothy reaction did serve to teach Tingley and Mahoney a lesson about walking into buzz saws. Safe to say it has been a while since they insulted other people's children.

I guess the broader point of my comment is that I have reached a stage in reading the P-S where I can no longer trust them not to operate with a hidden agenda. Which is ashame.

Brian F said...

Haha... when I was writing the comment, I had a nagging wonder in the back of my mind that the cartoon's author might have been you. I still think it was a cheap shot.

That said, I do think it's ironic that not long ago, the PS was criticizing HL for their low standards and now that the district has raised the quality of education, the PS is taking them to task for trying to maintain that level. I wish they'd make up their mind.

And you're right about their different agendas. How the prominence given to certain stories bears a striking similarity to editorial positions. You know that any teen drinking story is going to get major play. You knew that the HL budget rejection was going to be the lead story. I was hardly shocked to see the SGF anti-teen drinking spectacle be made a big deal out of. Anything anti-APA is always on the front page.

When you see this close correlation between the two on issue after issue, it makes you wonder whether news coverage drives the editorial position or vice versa. People are mistrustful of an institution where the tail seems to wag the dog.

MARQUIL said...

As I wrote to Mahoney a couple months ago, in a position of influence a little humility goes a long way.

In that spirit, I should add my one regret about that scurrilous cartoon. It left the impression that I blamed the kids for their failure to master the useless and mind-wasting skills necessary to achieve at federally-mandated anti-cognitive standardized tests. That was just plain wrong. I really meant to blame their teachers and parents.