Monday, July 06, 2009

Court Jesters

The NY Post has been having a great deal of fun ridiculing the state senate for its frustrating gridlock of New York State's government over the past month. But, if the senators are the clowns that the Post depicts them as, what does that make Rupert Murdoch and the paper's editorial staff, who have spent the better part of a year shamelessly shilling for Mike Bloomberg and mayoral control of the city schools? In our view, simply court jesters.

Over and over, ad infinitum, the paper's news pages and editorials have kept up a drumbeat of amen choral support for the re-authorization of mayoral control of the school; never bothering to even provide a soup├žon of proper balance. The Post even was able to bury its animus against Randi Weingarten and the UFT-providing her Op-Ed space-when she clearly indicated her support for the Bloomberg scheme.

But, nothing underscores this shameless parody of reporting, as much as the story (on page 2, no less) that the Post ran this past Saturday that "reported" on the mayor's new ad campaign-on, what else, his incredible success with the mayoral control experiment: "Mayor Bloomberg yesterday took his fight for control of city schools to the airwaves. Bloomberg -- seeking re-election to a third term this fall -- released two new campaign ads touting progress in improving student performance since he took charge of the school system in 2002."

What a farce! Bloomberg, with 80 million dollars or more to spend getting out, "my message," now has the added asset of an unscrupulous amen chorus, "reporting on" the mayor's ads. Bloomberg, whose re-election messages are so incessant and ubiquitous that you'd have to live in Wasila to miss them, now has an exclusive free media outlet that will help repeat and inculcate this one-sided charade-and remember that Bloomberg once defended his spending excess by saying that he couldn't depend on the media to accurately depict his record. Even he must be a little taken aback by the slavisness of the Post's cheerleading.

This lack of journalistic integrity is dramatized today by two companion stories on school governance-one in the NY Times; the other in the Post. The Times story gives us insight into the problems that the mayor may have getting his version of the legislation passed: "More than two weeks later, however, the idea that the bill will sail, unchanged, through the Senate appears more doubtful. In the strange world of Albany politics, the Senate’s 31-to-31 deadlock could mean the mayor would have to concede more than he would care to, even though the Assembly bill would most likely have enough support to pass if it were brought to a vote today."

In the Post's story, on the other hand: "Democrats in the state Senate tentatively agreed to pass legislation extending the mayor's authority to run city schools -- as soon as a power-sharing deal with the GOP is reached, sources said last night." Yet, a bit later in the piece, way below the headline and lede: "But the fragile accord could still be upended by a blow-up in the fractious Democratic conference or sniping with City Hall." Which story accurately reflects the reality in Albany? Hard to say, but, given the Post's advocacy, we'll bet on the Times here.

If we didn't know better, we'd have to assume that there is some kind of tawdry deal between Murdoch and Bloomberg; or else, we suppose, the elder newspaperman is experiencing the kind of thrill up the leg that transfixed Chris Matthews with The One. Hard to see, though, how the charisma deficient Bloomberg would be thrilling to anyone not receiving a charitable donation.

What we're seeing from the NY Post, the Washington Post, Newsweek, MSNBC, ABC, and an entire pantheon of supposedly independent journalistic outlets, is the death of news as we know it. If Mike Bloomberg, with all of his millions to spend, has an entire newspaper at his disposal to mimic his point of view-with the other local print media (particularly the editorial pages) not too far behind the Post's flackerry, than where can a citizenry expect to get an honest depiction of what's going on?

In NYC, the possibility of a truly open democratic debate has been hopelessly suborned; first by Blomberg's free spending, and now by wanton abdication by journalists totally uninterested in providing any degree of truth to power. Shame on the lot of them!