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Eric Celeste Smacks Down Atlanta Journal-Constitution

How’s our old co-worker Eric Celeste doing in Atlanta? I’m glad you asked.

Awhile back, I pointed you to a study the Atlanta Journal-Constitution did on cheating on standardized tests across the country. The AJC found 196 districts — including DISD and more than a dozen other North Texas districts — with data that strongly suggested hanky-panky. Just hang on there, Eric says. In a 2,000-word post to his paper’s blog, he explains how the AJC blew it. Sample:

The paper knew [it was overstating how many districts were cheating and that the data used to arrive at its conclusions were] deeply flawed and decided to publish anyway, because it didn’t have the time, resources, or desire to dive deeper into these numbers. I say this based on conversations I’ve had with school administrators, detailed responses by the districts themselves, and an expert who advised the paper and told it specifically why these numbers were not only wrong, but irresponsible to publish. In fact, I’m more certain of my conclusions than you should be of the notion the AJC‘s report indicates widespread cheating on the level the story asserts.

Eric says that an expert hired to help the AJC parse the data was astonished that the paper prematurely published the story.

No more astonished than Jon Dahlander, the public information officer for the Dallas Independent School District. On Friday in the afternoon, he received a call from the AJC, alerting him that Dallas’ school system was flagged in the AJC report. He was not asked to respond, but was told the report was going up over the weekend, so he was asked for his cellphone number in case the paper wanted to follow up on Sunday. (I guess to, I dunno, ask “How did THAT nutkick feel?”) He did find an email address for a reporter at the paper so he could quickly give some sort of response. He says two hours later he received a call from NBC Nightly News, asking him to respond to the report.

“Respond?” he said. “I haven’t even seen it.”

How did NBC Nightly News see it? Because the paper had apparently hired a TV marketing firm, A-1 Broadcast, to pimp the project.

You know, reading all this carefully reported, well-written copy on an important topic, it almost makes me wish that I hadn’t fired Eric.

12 comments on “Eric Celeste Smacks Down Atlanta Journal-Constitution

  1. Yeah, but before you get all mushy and nostalgic on us, let me remind you of the tied up goat you found in Eric’s cubicle with the smeared lipstick on its muzzle and the glassy look in its eyes. You had to fire him (Eric, that is). Many people have been fired for less.

  2. I thought the copy editor goat was the reason Trey Garrison got canned. Eric’s was the layout designer goat.

  3. Right. My bad. In my defense, D hired five replacement hookers so quickly it was easy to forget it ever happened.

  4. I question the goat’s copy editing skills. It’s common knowledge that goats get down on garbage, yet somehow we still see Timmy here and in the print edition.

  5. [Oh, look, the front page of FrontBurner says the post about me has five comments. Journalism professors? Captains of industry, perhaps? Let's click on the link and see.]

    *click*

    *scroll*

    [sheds tear, misses jackass friends]

  6. Tim,

    I saw your post on Eric Celeste’s story about our investigative report on the integrity of school testing. I wanted to give you a heads up that the story is so erroneous and misleading that even the base premise is wrong. We worked with four independent, unpaid experts on this story, and Gary Miron was not among them. You can see our full methodology and experts here:

    http://www.ajc.com/news/cheating-our-children-the-1397000.html.

    Miron participated in a conference call with editors of The Dayton Daily News, the Ohio Education Association and a representative of the National Education Association about their analysis of Ohio data. Dayton saw Miron’s role as a representative of the position of the teachers’ unions; one of the unions brought him onto the call. He was questioned for reaction and was quoted in Dayton’s story. And he did not bring any concerns to the table that had not already been considered and addressed appropriately in the reporting and analysis.

    I spoke with Miron today, and he confirmed that it would be misleading to suggest he had any advisory role in this story.

    Thanks,

    Bert Roughton Jr.
    Managing Editor

  7. On the topic at hand: love it when someone shows the laziness of journalists on display in such a public way. The AJC should be ashamed of itself. The DISD should have its lawyers chat with the folks there. Yes, there’s no way they can sue over this.. but lawyers always seem to catch the attention media companies.