As the saying goes, “all good things must come to an end.” Digital newspapers and the commenting section had so much promise in counteracting corporate forces and empowering the everyman to have a voice in the topic of the day. The free flow of information from multiple newspapers across the nation and the globe coupled with Facebook and Twitter helped to spread the stories that could encourage action and engagement. Over the past twelve months I have used Facebook and the commenting section of online newspapers to counteract corporate education reform (slightly pathetic, but better than nothing). My non-educator Facebook friends might be annoyed at my constant posting of education articles as opposed to posting pictures of what I ate for dinner or cat photos, but I’ve never been one to care about what other people think about me.
Alas, the almighty dollar appears to be winning out over the free access of information and the interactive dialogue that made online newspapers so great. I used to be able to read an article, highlight the hyperlink, and post it all over different Facebook groups. I started my own Facebook group devoted to sharing stories related to education and politics across Florida. Then 2013 was ushered in with the Miami Herald charging money for online access. What online newspapers don’t seem to understand is that readers have enjoyed being able to get their news from multiple sources. $9.99 a month might not seem like a lot of money, but it starts adding up if you want to be able read the NY Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal as well. If I have to chose between spending $100 a month for online newspaper subscriptions, or peacefully enjoying blissful ignorance for free as well as gobs more time, I’m going with ignorance. My house will probably never look cleaner as well.
Though the Miami Herald leaves a lot to be desired in terms of news coverage (hard to justify spending even $10 a month to be inundated with annoying pop up ads, front page stories of the former mayor wearing a thong for body building competitions and zombie face eaters) its education reporting was a steady source of information and articles pertaining to issues in Miami and Florida. They also had a great commenting section that enabled many district employees and parents to express their own experiences with the Dade County school system. Even though the Miami Herald receives payment from the Miami school district to write mostly PR fluff pieces, http://www.audaciouslady.com/blog/miami-dade-county-public-school-system-pays-the-miami-herald-16000-per-month-to-report/ occasionally they might write an article exposing some of the more salacious elements of the district (such as shoving 54 students into Advanced Placement classes just because the Florida Legislature says it’s OK). And, heck, if all they want to do is write complimentary articles about the superintendent winning some God awful race or prize and show pictures of him holding up trophies, we always had the commenting section to voice our own opinions. I realize the commenting section is mostly for losers and whack jobs (especially the Miami Herald commenting section) but every now and then there was engaging dialogue and it certainly offered an outlet for anonymous outing of district atrocities.
The days of anonymous commenting are over, at least for the Miami Herald. Want to comment on a news story? The only way to do so currently is by using your Facebook account. How many teachers are going to want to use their full names and pictures of their smiling mugs at the bottom of the Miami Herald exposing what their school administrators do in the name of following district orders, warping school data and coming in under budget? Got examples of district or union corruption? Most teachers are probably not going to risk putting their name out there exposing them. At times in the past, I did wish the Herald would end anonymous commenting. There were always a few anti-teacher, anti-public school, anti-union nutcases who would repeatedly post to every education article ranting and raving about incompetent teachers with their bloated salaries. I doubt those people will continue to post using their real names and pictures and I actually fear what those people will do with their lives now that they no longer have an outlet for their teacher bashing rage. But the ability to post anonymously about the reality of “pioneering” teacher evaluation systems, merit pay, teacher raises, testing, school data, Race to the Top, Broad prizes, Charter schools….etc. will be sorely missed. At least we still have the blogosphere, for now anyways.