By Denise Tessier
Teachers acknowledge they are frustrated, even angry, but was the Journal expecting them to get violent?
The Albuquerque Journal’s headline on its story about this week’s teacher protest rally subtly left that impression:
Spirited, but peaceful (in large type)
Hundreds protest new teacher evaluation system, student testing
The headline was factual, and so was the story on which the headline was based. Its second sentence read:
The demonstration was entirely peaceful.
But in the absence of any history of violent teacher demonstrations, the sentence seems odd. Perhaps the sheer number (upward of 1,000) who attended this week’s protest against teacher evaluations was enough in today’s contentious society to prompt note of the lack of violence – especially considering the N.M. Public Education Department’s inclination to foist on teachers the blame for poor student performance.
What could the Journal have done instead? I’m pleased to note that the same story was covered by others, whose headlines are examples themselves of less opinionated alternatives to the Journal’s choice of wording:
That’s the headline on the story by Marisa Demarco, New Mexico Compass. The online version headline was similar: “Parents and Students Stand Against EOCs” – or “end-of-course exams”.
(Subhead) Attendance surpassed organizer expectations
Those are the headline and secondary head on the story by Sterling Fluharty, editor/publisher of the Mid-Heights Messenger.
I have reason to say it’s a pleasure to mention these two stories — beyond the fact that they provide concrete examples of alternative headlines.
It’s good to see Demarco’s byline again and on a story as important as this, as New Mexico Compass hasn’t been filing as many stories as it did when it debuted, likely because of scarce resources.
Then there’s Fluharty’s Mid-Heights Messenger, which is a new addition to the media mix. Up and running since September, it’s an online “urban community newspaper” that covers a large swath of Albuquerque.
Johnny Mango also weighed in on the rally with a post on Duke City Fix, headlined Our Schools Start To Fight Back! Accompanied by great illustrative photos of protestors and their signs, his post read more like the news/opinion blog that it is, rather than straight coverage. It included comments from speakers, but also observations like this:
. . .the star of the show without a doubt, was the crowd itself. Large, loud, diverse, and informed, they spoke and applauded as speaker after speaker echoed their concerns. This was an intelligent mob. They understood what was at stake, the very nature of public education, and were willing to stand up and say so. Many of the issues were reflected in the signs they carried.
But this wasn’t a “feel good” rally. There was a grimness about it…a tension that was palpable. Oh everyone was polite and enthusiastic, but when I started talking to them their tone changed. They were deadly serious.
“It always was a hard job, but it was a doable job,” said two teachers from Chamisa Elementary School. “People are at their wit’s end–they just don’t know what to do.”
Former principal Michael Carrillo called the PED to task for “the selling of public education,” referring to the consultants, tests and programs the PED has bought that has transferred so much of our public education money into private corporations. “Public education should be public.”
John Malin, part of Monte Vista’s treasure of legendary teachers, was more graphic, “I walk around school and people start crying…teachers start crying.” . . .
So, the rally was polite, but tense and even grim. And, as the Journal pointed out, peaceful.