Media Matters: Who is Telling the Story?
By Jim Vail
― Karl Marx, The German Ideology
By Jim Vail
“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.”
― Karl Marx, The German Ideology
When it comes to reading our newspapers, nothing is more frustrating than people getting upset when they read an article that bashes teachers or faults unions for the problems in this country.
How could they do this?
Especially when they then read now and then excellent reporting, such as the recent article in The Chicago Tribune about how the corrupt toxic swap deals have cost the Chicago Public Schools perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars.
Well, that just goes to prove we have a free media and we can trust what they write.
Not exactly. In fact, not at all!
As Mr. Marx states above, we lack the means of mental production. We do not own the media. Hedge Funds, billionaires, and corporate entities own the media. And they do not want unions, a redistribution of the world's wealth or worker's rights that conflict with their profits.
But it all has to look legitimate. So we read papers like the Chicago Tribune and the Sun Times, and read good reporting now and then. We even read about corruption and how politicians like Congressman Luis Guitierrez made millions on real estate deals in the city while serving as an elected official with his close ties to developers.
We educators can read Catalyst which also features good reporting on the Chicago Public Schools.
But then we run into problems. The Chicago Tribune writes an editorial lauding the closing of 50 public schools. The Sun Times runs a feature about how well charter schools perform while failing to mention that public schools outperform charters. Time Magazine whacks teachers once again with a cover picture of a rotten apple implying we have too many bad teachers. Or Catalyst's latest story by Teach Plus about the need to give the PARCC test a chance despite the protests and problems.
When I started to work for the public schools I immediately became interested in a monthly newspaper called Substance News because it was our media. It was and is published by George Schmidt who writes stories from the teachers' perspective and not the board of education. He features editorials lambasting the businessmen who issue bonds to destroy the public schools and calls out charter schools for what they are - anti-union privatized entities promoted by the business class to destroy public education, teachers unions and democracy (no local school council elections!).
Unfortunately, Substance has not been up and running lately due to technical difficulties.
Heck, even our city's alternative paper The Reader has been bought out by the very corporate people who bought the Sun Times and have close ties to mayor Rahm Emanuel. Gone are the days of excellent cover stories on police brutality. I'm sure the owners are waiting for excellent reporter and staunch public schools defender Ben Joravsky to retire soon. The Tribune replaced our city's most beloved columnist Mike Royko with libertarian John Kass; the Reader can do the same.
I just wish people would understand that what we read should not be trusted. Sure, we need to get our news from the newspapers and other online sources. But we should critically evaluate what we are reading and understand that our corporate media is owned by the very businessmen who cut jobs, and health care and do not want unions. They want us to think their way.
Second City Teachers education news blog, and others like it, want to tell readers that we teachers and workers, the people, need to fight for our rights, for our jobs, for health care, etc. because those who own the media do not believe we are entitled to any of this.
And we need to start by understanding what we are reading today.