I Hope the Russians Love Their Children Too

by Reihan Salam

Compare and contrast how New York Times covered a school rezoning fight on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, where middle- and upper-middle-income white parents are resisting having their children shifted from a low-poverty elementary school to a high-poverty, heavily black and Latino school that state officials have acknowledged is “persistently dangerous,” and how it covered school segregation in the St. Louis metropolitan area, where middle-income suburbanites have been similarly reluctant to send their children to schools with higher poverty levels.

When reporting on affluent New York parents, the Times offers a balanced account that acknowledges the legitimate concerns a parent might have about enrolling her child in a school with a violent reputation. If anything, reporter Kate Taylor gives short shrift to equally reasonable concerns about whether New York city’s conventional public schools are doing an adequate job of serving poor and minority students, though in fairness that is not the subject of this particular article. When reporting on St. Louis, in contrast, the Times focuses almost exclusively on the harm that attending segregated schools can do to poor black children. Nikole Hannah-Jones contrasts one relatively affluent, predominantly white school district in suburban St. Louis with the dismal quality of the region’s other public schools, yet she makes no effort to contextualize why middle-income suburbanites in Missouri might question the wisdom of forced integration efforts.

Again, one could argue that this contrast merely reflects the fact that in this particular article Hannah-Jones, at least, wasn’t focused on the perspective of middle-income parents. My sense is that the Times might be slightly more sympathetic to middle-income parents in New York City, particularly those who insist that they are politically liberal, than to middle-income parents in the St. Louis suburb. None of this should come as a shock. But it is something that editors, and more importantly readers, ought to keep in mind. 

(And if you’re wondering about the title of this post, here’s a link.)

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