press the press

When the story is education, Rupert Murdoch gets involved

Rupert Murdoch takes a strong interest in his newspapers' education coverage. (Photo by WorldEconomicForum on Flickr)

How involved is Rupert Murdoch at the newspapers he owns? When the subject is education, Murdoch’s views directly influence the coverage in the New York Post and, at the least, the sorts of meetings taken at the Wall Street Journal.

Azi Paybarah at the Observer reports today that at the New York Post, education stories are ordered up according to Murdoch’s visits:

One former reporter said his own editor requested a week’s worth of stories about the New York City public schools because “Rupert was going to be in town.” It was coveted real estate in the paper, and the reporter reluctantly obliged.

We have previously chronicled the Post’s open campaigning on behalf of the Bloomberg administration’s education policies and its effort to renew mayoral control. The coverage prompted Education Secretary Arne Duncan to praise the newspaper for its “leadership” in covering mayoral control.

There are some exceptions — New York City education beat reporter Yoav Gonen is even-handed and columnist Michael Goodwin takes no prisoners. But on and off the editorial page, the newspaper often matches Murdoch’s education views: aggressively dismissive of the teachers union and ridiculing of critics of the mayor.

At the Wall Street Journal, the line between news and opinion and newspaper boss seems to be thicker. But it has some holes. Last week, the New York Times reported on a meeting arranged between Joel Klein, then still the schools chancellor, and reporters:

When Mr. Klein visited The Journal last year to discuss education issues with news and opinion writers, Mr. Murdoch interrupted to lavish praise on the chancellor, much to the surprise of the writers. “Just listen to everything that Joel is saying,” Mr. Murdoch insisted, according to one person who attended the meeting.

A person who attended the meeting confirmed the account. The same story reported that Murdoch relished his access to Journal reporters, with whom he sometimes discussed education issues.

Not everyone at News Corp followed lockstep with Murdoch. When Department of Education officials met with the editorial boards of papers across the city to persuade them of their success at raising achievement, editors at the New York Post’s editorial page were skeptical, a former Bloomberg administration official said.

“We worked hard to get them on board with our numbers,” said the source. “I’m telling you, it was easier with the Times.”

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.