Piling On Against Pundits (Washington DC)

For some reason I’m neither surprised nor that worked up about the news that the Bush Administration paid a B-list pundit to shill for NCLB – even now, as Secretary Paige issues his non-denial denial and the questions keep coming:
Education Chief Defends Payments to Pundit Washington Post
Senators seek review of Williams' education deal Washington Times
President criticizes Education Dept.'s payout to Armstrong USAT

But clearly I’m the only one who isn't that interested:
No Pundit Left Behind New York Times
Space For Sale Newsweek
Fodder for Reform's Cynics, and a Blot on Bipartisanship New York Times
How to lose friends and alienate teachers Mojo via Eduwonk
The Latest $600 Hammer The Education Intelligence Agency
The Conservative Marketing Machine AlterNet
Will: Ed Department's public relations moves lack common sense
The Union Leader

It was wrong, obviously, and exceptionally poor timing in terms of the new Congress, the new Secretary, and plans to expand NCLB. But it’s nothing new, given last year’s revelations that the Bushies were putting out fake news on health and education issues, and rating education reporters. And it obviously didn’t have much effect, given the generally uphill battle that NCLB has faced in the press and among the public.

Why the apparent overreaction? A slow news week, in large part. Opportunism among Bush/NCLB opponents, to be sure. Exquisite coordination with the 3rd anniversary of the law’s establishment creates an easy hook. And the story hits a nerve: major media sensitivity in the Dan Rather/Jayson Blair age to any suggestion that they’re not doing their job reporting the news.

And yet, Williams was no more a journalist than former Crossfire co-host Tucker Carlson. Pundits on both sides of the issues operate in a journalistic gray area, the hired guns of the Third Estate. This also makes everyone a little squeamish, as it should:
Case Shines Harsh Light on 'Pundit Industry'
Leave the payola pundits behind Chicago Tribune

There may be other things more worth watching than this. For example, the trend towards earmarks in K-12 education seems deeply worrisome. Just five years ago, such things were extremely limited in the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bills. Now they’re everywhere, hampering efforts in K12 nearly as much as they already do in higher education. And then of course there are the other education bills coming down the pike:
Education earmarks clog budget bill Washington Times
Project Draws Federal Money, Despite Doubts Education Week
2005: The Year Ahead Progressive Policy Institute

It's not all bad news in Washington. We can all look ahead to all of the festivities next week surrounding the Inauguration. I wonder what Secretary-nominee Spellings will wear?:
Education Gala Part of Presidential Inaugural Week Education Week.
Spellings Promises a Bipartisan Approach


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