The Slice of Life Challenge is hosted by the inspirational writers of Two Writing Teachers. Each March, they invite people to join them in a commitment to write every day. Here's to another year of daily slicing!
Nicholas Kristof wrote a stunning editorial in today's New York Times about the role the media played in the rise of a politician. I'm still processing some of what he wrote, but one of the striking elements for me is the aspect of money. Kristof quoted one of my all-time favorite reporters, Ann Curry in his analysis of how ratings mattered to reporters.
“Trump is not just an instant ratings/circulation/clicks gold mine; he’s the motherlode,” Ann Curry, the former “Today” anchor, told me. “He stepped on to the presidential campaign stage precisely at a moment when the media is struggling against deep insecurities about its financial future. The truth is, the media has needed Trump like a crack addict needs a hit.”
It occurs to me that we don't do much to teach students to ask about who is making money. Who stands to gain financially from this story? I'm not even sure I have ever done a good enough job myself of being aware of it. Reporting is a business, and social media has made it harder and harder to make a living as a responsible reporter of the news. We all have to make a living.
Earlier in the month, I blogged about a controversy in my own town that revolved around basketball. My daughter's team made the front page of the local paper twice in one week because of issues of social justice. When I first read the articles, I recognized them as a great example of irresponsible reporting. In our fifth and sixth grade nonfiction curriculum, we have lessons that challenge students to think about whose perspective is included and whose perspective is left out. What could the other side of the story be? I think this lesson is incredibly important. But it occurs to me that our curriculum is missing another lesson, entangled in another quote from Ann Curry:
We failed to take Trump seriously because of a third media failing: We were largely oblivious to the pain among working-class Americans and thus didn’t appreciate how much his message resonated. “The media has been out of touch with these Americans,” Curry notes.Even if we are teaching about perspectives and whose stories are left out, I'm not sure we are teaching about who the reporters relate to, even without realizing it. I have some serious thinking to do about this.
I'm not crazy enough to think that the tale of Trump is one I'd ever use in our elementary curriculum, but Nicolas Kristof does make me continue to think about what educators have to teach students so that we are all responsible consumers of the vast amounts of information so readily available to us.