Toni Konz at the Courier-Journal has a story about the JCPS efforts to assess magnet schools. You have a chance to weigh in about them on Thursday. Find out more info by reading her story here.
The Ville Voice has posted its article on the Eric Flack story on JCPS travel today, complete with e-mails between Flack and JCPS and background on the story as a whole. It's an enlightening read, and not very flattering for WAVE.
I emailed WAVE 3's GM Ken Selvaggi about my concerns with Eric Flack's story. He forwarded it to Bill Shory, News Director for a response. His response below (in black) with my thoughts (in red) :
WAVE 3's "Troubleshooter", Eric Flack, decided to turn his attention to JCPS last night in a report troubling not for what it reported, but for the basic lack of reporting it contained, and the source Flack used to criticize the spending.
You can watch the report here. After watching it myself, there are several questions, comments, and criticisms I have.
Overall, this is truly an abysmal piece of reporting, one that does nothing to answer the central question WAVE / Flack proposed in the intro, " Is the Jefferson County Public School system taking taxpayers for a ride. Or is it investing in local students future?" Since Flack doesn't provide us with enough information to compare JCPS to other districts, or to validate that these expenses were out of line for conferences, or that these conferences didn't provide instructional value for the teachers that attended, it's impossible to say how I should feel as a taxpayer.
Most troubling is Flack's use of photos and information from a political organization posing as an educational advocacy group. If Flack fancies himself an investigative reporter, why would he go to an organization with an ax to grind for comment? Was Flack too lazy to do his homework on EAG, was he played by the organization, or is WAVE using the report to further a political and/or editorial agenda for the station? In the end, Eric Flack's report left me with far too many questions to have been of any value. It feels more like a JCPS smear piece than an actual attempt to investigate the school system.
MORE INFORMATION ON THE EDUCATION ACTION GROUP IS BELOW
Yesterday I saw a WAVE 3 teaser for Eric Flack's investigative report into JCPS travel expenses. My guess is that this is, in part, a response to being scooped by WLKY's Steve Burgin in a story about the baseball coach of PRP reportedly running his business out of the school and PRP's principal being questioned about travel expenses.
It's quite possible that this report will uncover some questionable expenses. It's also possible that the report will uncover legitimate expenses that will be presented as questionable. And it may be that nothing of substance beyond what has already been reported will be uncovered. The local media should work to investigate questionable expenses within our government and elsewhere.
But as someone who has watched Channel 3 sometimes for several hours straight after dinner time, I have to wonder where Ken Selvaggi's commitment to coverage of JCPS disappeared to. The "special section" of WAVE's website has six stories on it, the most recent from September 2013. I may be wrong, but I think a few things have happened in JCPS since then.
The local media can jump on every bus crash, failing school report, and nude pictures in class report they find, but they have no time to discuss the numerous things that go right in JCPS, or even to give an update about the school board meetings that happen every two weeks.
Yes, Eric Flack, you should cover the bad stuff. But why don't you and your station spend a bit of time investigating the stuff that is going right? Why not investigate the questions that every parent has when navigating JCPS? Why not explain the school assignment process in depth? Why not direct people to places where they can research schools, tell them about how they can tour schools before making a selection, or simply profiling each school to provide its strengths and weaknesses?
So once again I challenge local stations to spend some of those 89 hours of their news day to cover JCPS in full. Even the boring parts. JCPS provides a valuable service to the community. Our media should as well.
About Rob Mattheu
I created the Louisville BEAT to help JCPS parents become more informed and involved in the school system. You can contact me here.