One of the most frustrating developments to accompany the ongoing debate in Wake County over the move to re-segregate the public schools has been the frequently poor local news coverage. A classic case in point can be found in T. Keung Hui’s story this morning in Raleigh’s News and Observer.
Last night, a wonderfully diverse and and energetic crowd of people filled Pullen Memorial Baptist Church on Hillsborough Street to sing, hold hands, cheer inspiring speakers and to learn of the latest plans to organize new protests and marches to confront the narrow Board majority as it attempts to drive the Wake schools into the ditch.
The highlight of the evening came as religious leaders from different parts of the state expressed their support for a mass demonstration on July 20 in Raleigh. If there was a “lead” to be gleaned from the meeting, this was it: The Wake schools debate is no longer just a local issue — it is fast becoming a state and national issue. The move to re-segregate the schools has, somewhat ironically, given rise to the beginnings of a new multi-racial “fusion” politcal movement in North Carolina. For the first time in a long time, Blacks, Whites, Asians and Latinos are working together to advance a progressive policy cause. Any reporter paying even a smidgen of attention to what was happening last night would have reported on this.
Unfortunately, you won’t find anything about this in Raleigh’s newspaper of record. Hui’s story is instead headlined: “Arrests anticipated for schools rally.” Here’s the lead:
RALEIGH — State civil rights leaders encouraged people to risk arrest as they announced plans Monday for a July 20 mass demonstration to protest the end of Wake County’s school diversity policy.
The Rev. William Barber, president of the state NAACP, said the rally will be held in Raleigh to coincide with that day’s school board meeting. At last week’s board meeting, Barber was among four people who were arrested on trespassing charges for disrupting the meeting.
As groups organize for the demonstration and other events, Barber asked the biracial crowd of more than 230 people at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church in Raleigh on Monday to search their conscience to see if they’re willing to engage in acts of civil disobedience.”
This is just plain lousy and inaccurate reporting. Leaders of the meeting did not ask or urge the crowd to enage in mass civil disobedience as Hui imples. They said repeatedly and clearly that people who care about the dismantling of our public school system should find their own way to participate. This could include sitting at the table and negotiating, gathering data and research behind the scenes, speaking at board meetings, and yes, if someone chooses that route, practicing civil disobedience. But there was no move whatsover to encourage mass civil disobedience as Hui’s story implies.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that Hui’s stories have grasped for sensational headlines of apparent confrontation rather than spending a little time digging below the surface to get at what was really happening in the substance and politics of the Wake schools debate. Rather than examining the real merits of the opposing views and the real political forces at work, Hui seems to favor the “”he said – she said” brand of reporting that eschews actual analysis and simply relies upon sound bites manipulated to fit the story he thinks will get the most attention.
The N&O can and should do better and Wake County deserves better.