I wanted to take a moment to highlight a story I'm especially proud of. Reporter Megan Tady started gathering source material for her piece on the re-segregation of Omaha, Nebraska schools prior to the mild media blitz the story received later this week. She and her editors took their time on the piece, however, and the result is a glaringly different news article than those produced by other outlets.
Firstly, Megan focused on the people most affected by the state law that will cut the Omaha Public Schools into three racially defined districts. Meanwhile the New York Times, in its infinite wisdom, saw fit to relay the views of billionaire investor Warren Buffet and MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company CEO David Sokol.
Bad sourcing was typical of most news stories, very few of which quoted students, even though they were easy to find and eager to speak.
But the real zinger is that apparently no other news outlet -- at least none I can find -- picked up on a little aspect of the legislation that contradicts all the separate-but-equal rhetoric of the bill's main proponent, Sen. Ernie Chambers. Upon reading the actual bill, which is maybe something reporters at corporate papers don't find important these days, we discovered a gaping loophole that will not only allow, but quite likely encourage, a vast disparity across the color divide in funding for Omaha's city schools.
At issue is a provision that allows a coordinating council made up of representatives from all the districts to set the property-tax rate for the common fund that will be shared somewhat fairly across districts. There is nothing setting a minimum for this rate, which means it can be set low so the wealthier communities do not have to share their money with the poorer ones. And because the districts can collect their own taxes in addition to the common fund, privileged areas will have every incentive to pay their own way, in order to keep their money local and disenfranchise the less-moneyed neighborhoods.
Not even any of the local critics of the bill Megan first spoke with were aware that it does not, as they had been promised and evidently believed, provide for equal funding. Other news organizations missed this either out of laziness or disdain for the people who will most likely be most affected by it.
Once we realized the bill does is not as advertised, we postponed the story for a day to verify our concerns and seek further responses from various sources. That meant making the painful choice not to publish a Thursday edition. For TNS, we always fault on the side of getting the story straight over just getting something out there. We trust our readers appreciate the extra effort and patience.