Fox Won't Disclose News Corp. Testing Contracts At Heart Of The Chicago Teachers' Strike
In 89 segments between September 10 and 16, Fox News reported on the Chicago Teachers Union's strike without disclosing its financial ties to the educational technology company administering the standardized tests with which the union takes issue.
Fox News parent company News Corp. acquired a 90-percent stake in Wireless Generation in 2010. Last May, the company agreed to provide Early Mathematics Assessment Services and Early Literacy Assessment Services to Chicago Public Schools. These contracts total $4.7 million. A central reason the Chicago Teachers Union decided to strike is their objection to the school district's call for heavily weighing such standardized testing to ultimately determine teacher pay and layoffs.
But Fox News anchors and reporters never once disclosed its parent company's ties to Wireless Generation even as the network routinely criticized the strike and the Chicago Teachers Union.
The programs that covered the story most often:Fox & Friends (including the First, Saturday, and Sunday editions) with 31 segments over the entire week; America's News Headquarters aired 12 segments this last weekend alone; America Live was next with 7 segments; and Fox Report with Shepard Smith and Special Report followed with 6 segments each. Not one segment disclosed News Corp.'s business relationship with Wireless Generation despite repeated mentions and discussions of the teacher evaluations at the heart of the strike.
During Monday's Special Report with Bret Baier, correspondent Steve Brown reported of the strike: “At issue, says the union president, is trust.” Indeed. It's also an issue for Fox News. How can Fox's viewers trust that the network has provided a “fair and balanced” overview of events unfolding in Chicago when it won't disclose its financial interests?
Examples of Fox discussion of the strike include (via Nexis):
From the September 13 edition of America Live:
MEGYN KELLY: The issue at the heart of the teachers strike in Chicago that has left almost 400,000 school children without any education this week is being taken up in a soon-to-be-released movie called, Won't Back Down.
Teachers on the picket line say that one of their biggest concerns in Chicago is a new performance evaluation system. They don't like the way that they would be evaluated. And this new film takes on that very issue, among other concern with our children's education.
From the September 12 edition of Fox & Friends:
GRETCHEN CARLSON: More than 350,000 students in Chicago will go another day without being inside the classroom. Teachers are on strike for a third day now.
The teacher's union and school board can't seem to agree on new evaluations or recall rights for laid off teachers, and while they try to hammer out a deal, parents are left scrambling.
From the September 11 edition of Hannity:
JUAN WILLIAMS, FOX NEWS POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I know this situation intimately, Sean, because I did a video online with education activist, Kyle Olson, called tale of two missions.
And it tells the story because teacher evaluations have become critical. So you have Democratic politicians like Rahm Emanuel, the former chief of staff now saying, we have to have teacher evaluations.
From the September 11 edition of The Five:
GREG GUTFELD: And what's that anger about? Well, the teachers fear what they oppose on students. Grades, evaluation, standards. How dare you expect me to do better? You must be racist or something.
This isn't a strike, it's occupy the classrooms. We might as well dump exams for drum circles. At least that might prepare them for life in the park.
Andrea, a big fear here? Standardized test is threatening their seniority. Isn't that what this is about?
ANDREA TANTAROS: Yes, it is. And, you know, we should recognize that if this isn't a conservative or Democratic issue, you've seen a trend among the chancellor, former D.C. school chancellor Michelle Rhee, New York City school chancellor Joel Klein saying the same thing.
TANTAROS: They are coming out an saying how do we measure success? Let's put standardized tests into play.
So, you actually the union versus the Democrats. I mean, their in- fighting on this one. But I think it's embarrassing, Greg, that these teachers, with these students that have such poor scores -- I mean some of them here, 20 percent of the eighth graders in public schools are 14 percent below the national average. And they expect a raise, and they're getting one.
TANTAROS: Rahm tried to give them a 16 percent raise over four years in a down economy. I don't care if I'm a Republican, Democrat, anybody, I'd be ticked off at that.
GUTFELD: Yes. Bob, here is what I am concerned about -- they are angry, even if they win this strike. Do you think they're going to be unbiased when they teach the students about what went on? Is the strike the least of our worries? Is their attitude in the classroom? That kind of bugs me.
BOB BECKEL: You know, I'm a very strong union supporter, strong supporter of teachers unions. However, having said that, the idea they're not willing for a long time, I have supported means tested for teachers, merit testing for teachers. They want these people who have been let go of the school system to automatically come back to the classroom.
The reason they're out is they weren't good teachers.
BECKEL: So, the idea that they should be the first in line to get teaching jobs is crazy.
GUTFELD: Yes, it is crazy.
BECKEL: And, by the way, the 35 percent, they moved immediately off that. It wasn't about pay increase because they knew they weren't going to get that much. They are holing up on this whole issue about the teachers should be rated, and what their kids do on the standardized tests. Why not?
ERIC BOLLING: Which in their contract is the only thing they cannot strike for. The only thing they can strike for is money.
And I think the latest they came back and said we didn't want 35 percent. We have only wanted 25-1/2 percent. What are you guys talking about?
Fifteen percent of eighth graders are reading at eighth grade proficiency level. Only 20 percent of them are doing math at that level. Teachers are making $74,000 per year plus benefit. Meanwhile, the average household in Chicago makes under $50,000.
Where's -- look, I have no problem with good teachers. Just put on the merit-pay system. By the way, once you graduate from high school, colleges and universities, they pay on merit. Why can't you do it for, you know, the lower grades?
DANA PERINO: I'm going to defend the teachers here on one aspect. That is when a lot of the kids get to school, they don't even know their shapes or their colors. And then it just compiles so that by the eighth grade, they can't do basic math.
And so you have a chicken and the egg situation where would you want to be a teacher in a Chicago school, inner city school? Probably not. Do they deserve to get $75,000 a year plus benefits, and guaranteed retirement package compared to somebody who might work at hospice, who doesn't have a union that helps them?
I mean, that's why I think the public unions are a little bit skating on the edge here. When you saw what happened in Wisconsin. Now they have reforms. The sky didn't fall. Actually, that state is starting to come back.
BECKEL: Let's say one thing about merit for teachers. There should be a system worked out for teachers in schools and inner city schools where the kids are not as prepared in other schools, so that you can still do merit testing for teachers but you have to take in to account --
PERINO: But this is where I think government can't solve all the problem. This is a breakdown of the family problem.
From the September 11 edition of Studio B with Shepard Smith:
SHEPARD SMITH: Thirty-five percent [alleged pay increase]? Does anybody involved in the process other than the teacher's union think that this is tenable?
LYNN SWEET: Well, that's not my understanding of what the figure is, so I'm not speaking to that. The big issues, as I have been briefed -- and I just came from somebody who is very knowledgeable about it -- have to do more with not salary -- and they were talking about in the neighborhood of maybe a 3 percent in the first year increase -- and the issue had to do with the performance evaluation of teachers, and if there are teachers who are laid off, in what order they would be rehired and what role seniority would play. Those are the two big issues out there right now.
SMITH: You know, and it's interesting Lynn because I've been reading all day as well that they were very, very close on the money part, it was more the protection and the grading of the teachers that was the matter of great concern.
SWEET: That is it. And the performance evaluations -- there's already some in Illinois state law. Mayor Emanuel wanted to make it tougher, and this is one of the big sticking points between the union and the city.
From the September 10 edition of On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN: Interesting news out of Chicago. Rahm Emanuel working a strike and got support from Governor Romney and Paul Ryan?
BYRON YORK: This is kind have amusing because it mixes up the sides. Obviously, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would be on the side of management in this case, in this case the government of the city of Chicago just like they favored Scott walk they are Wisconsin. In this case the management is Rahm Emanuel, the president's former chief of staff, major Obama supporter. They have come out and we stand with the mayor and he is not quite as happy.
KAREN TUMULTY: This is all about putting Barack Obama on the spot. This isn't about Chicago politics. Illinois is blue state. This is really and truly all about the president and putting him on the spot, because he has championed some of these same policies through his own education secretary, which, by the way, used to run the schools in Chicago. It's trying to strain the president's relationship with the teachers' union.
YORK: Be charitable here. Clearly, this is not Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan standing up for a Democratic mayor of Chicago. It's the highlight the fact that they have a close relationship with the teachers unions and because it puts President Obama in a tough spot. They are not taking sides on this.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is it poisonous, I expect it for President Obama?
KLEIN: I don't think he wants to get near it.
KLEIN: This is school system in which the president declined to send his own children. I am sure surrogates in the campaign will bring that up.
VAN SUSTEREN: And Scott Walker, they are trying to win and fighting for Wisconsin's vote.
KLEIN: It resulted in a near death experience for Scott Walker.
VAN SUSTEREN: He won more points, he won by a larger majority with the recall than when he was first elected.
KLEIN: They champion the side of taking on the unions it could be a political winner. I think in battleground states, teachers unions, being on the side isn't a political winner. You would be glad to take them on, whose interested do they have in mind?
TUMULTY: The president has sort of a difficult relationship with the teachers union because a lot of things for instance in race to the top, their signature education program is about rewarding teachers for test score performance, and that is exactly one of big issues here.
VAN SUSTEREN: You can imagine what Mayor Rahm Emanuel, what he thinks? He wasn't too appreciative of the support.
YORK: I can't imagine he liked the phone call.
Media Matters searched the Nexis database and the raw video of Fox News programs between September 10 and 16 for keywords: “teacher,” “strike,” “union,” or “Chicago.” We counted every segment about the teachers strike or segments in which significant discussion about the strike occurred. We did not count teasers, but we did count short news briefs and news updates.