September 7, 2000
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Here's a way to make sure no one reads past the first sentence of a news story. Start it with the following sentence: "The opening salvos were predictable."
If it's predictable, why bother reading any further?
Well, Smartertimes.com soldiered on, and 14 paragraphs into an otherwise mind-numbing story in this morning's New York Times about the opening of contract talks between the New York City teachers' union and the Board of Education, we found a fascinating piece of news: The teachers' union wants relief from the onerous work rules that the union itself bargained for in its previous contracts.
The New York Post, appropriately sensitive to the irony and man-bites-dog newsworthiness of this union proposal, made this its front-page headline this morning in screaming tabloid type. It interpreted the union proposal as asking for what essentially would be union-run charter schools. Since one of the main points in favor of charter schools is that they supposedly allow schools to escape from the unionized regimentation and bureaucracy of the Board of Education, the fact even the teachers' union is so enthusiastic about them is a big deal.
The Times, however, finds it predictable, which is, well, predictable.
Yeshiva and Gays: Another fascinating story buried deep in the metro section of the Times is that the state attorney general of New York is joining a lawsuit against an Orthodox Jewish university, Yeshiva University, for refusing to allow a lesbian couple access to married student housing. Since the state of New York doesn't recognize gay or lesbian marriages, and since two courts have already ruled against the lesbian couple, it's hard to fathom the legal theory under which the state attorney general is operating. Orthodox Judaism doesn't recognize gay marriages, either. The state attorney general's attempt to force Yeshiva University to do so is just one step on a course that would logically lead to the state forcing the Catholic Church to ordain women as priests and forcing Yeshiva University to serve pork in its cafeteria. The Times relegates this news item about the attorney general and Yeshiva University to a single paragraph, an un-bylined brief.
Instead: So, if the Times's editors don't find the Yeshiva University lesbian housing issue and the teachers' union's rebellion against its own work rules worthy of prominent display in today's paper, what are they choosing to emphasize instead? Well, there's a substantial dispatch on the fact that Robert Kennedy Jr. is endorsing Hillary Clinton for U.S. Senate. Hello? A Kennedy endorsing a Democrat in a Senate race qualifies as news? Talk about predictable. The story that gets the most space in the metro section this morning, though, is about some Belgian princess who is arriving in New York for a visit on -- get ready -- Saturday. The Times breathlessly reports that the princess is "a friendly, radiant 27-year-old" who "resembles the model Claudia Schiffer." Well, we're sure the sober folks at the Times consider the New York Post to be the un-serious, sex-obsessed tabloid newspaper in this city, but they might ask themselves this question: Which newspaper led with a substantive education policy story this morning, and which one gave the massive display to a story about the impending visit of a princess whose main news appeal seems to be that she "resembles the model Claudia Schiffer"?
(For the record, we're not saying the New York Post is without its flaws. And, in the interest of disclosure, we should also note that the Post has agreed to pay Smartertimes.com a one-time nominal fee in exchange for the right to reprint an excerpt from a recent edition of Smartertimes.com on the opinion page of its September 6 paper.)
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