My Media Experience

[ update: the article is now available online ]

Back in June, my wife was approached by a journalist, writing an article on ‘‘how to get value for money when you send your kids to private school’‘ for MoneySense (a Canadian personal finance magazine). My wife agreed to be interviewed, and she and the author had several conversations. Over all the experience was quite positive. The author was genuinely interested in the subject, and was friendly and helpful.

In early August, MoneySense asked if our family would agree to appear in photos accompanying the article. My initial inclination was to say “No”; as (with good reason) I do not trust the mass media. My children attend a small school; all of the staff, and most of the parents, know my kids. I was concerned that associating our family with a potentially controversial article might cause problems within the community.

However, our experience with the author had been excellent; I like the magazine (I’ve been a subscriber since it was launched); and we thought it would a cool experience for the kids to appear in a magazine, and have a nice picture to frame and hang up. So in the end, I decided to take a chance and accept the invitation.

Sadly, my worst fears were confirmed. When the issue arrived, I opened it to find a beautiful, 1.5 page photo of my children next to the sensational headline:

10 Things Private Schools Won’t Tell You

(Won’t was highlighted in red). I was shocked. Then I was angry; what a completely ridiculous title! The article itself is even-handed and thought provoking; it certainly does not contain an exposé! As far as I can tell, nobody was hiding anything! I have no idea what the editors were thinking when they chose the headline for the article.

Any positive experience this might have been for my family was completely destroyed by that one decision. I certainly can’t display it that way; I don’t even want to give out copies to the grandparents! Staff at the school feel betrayed; they went out of their way to be helpful to us and to the magazine (including allowing the photo shoot on school property). Thankfully people in the community have mostly been sympathetic; they understand that the editorial process was out of our control. And for what little it’s worth, the kids liked having their picture in a magazine; at this point they are too young to understand my frustration.

I made the mistake of ignoring one of my personal rules of life: never, ever, have dealings with the media. The best intentions will always be corrupted; the correct answer is always “No Comment!“.

I will remember that in the future.

posted at 8:14 pm on Tuesday, November 11, 2003 in Personal | Comments (4)

4 Comments

  1. David Brake says:

    The headline and blurb was almost certainly not chosen by the original journalist (who might well be as annoyed as you are) and was a simple attempt to get people to read the article. That said, if the article itself is “even-handed and thought provoking” you’ve come out of it a lot better than most people who encounter the media ;-) You should encourage the school staff to read the actual article before they complain too much. I’m more annoyed by the fact that the moneysense people didn’t put it up on the website (could you scan a copy and send it? I’d be interested – and don’t have recent pix of Charlotte and Gareth!)

  2. Jeff K says:

    10 Things Private School Won’t teach you

    1. You can only nurture so much
    2. The curriculum is a crock public or private
    3. The media is a crock
    4. Psychology is a crock
    5. Psychiatry is a crock
    6. Economics is a crock
    7. English/literature study is shallow
    8. Art programs are lame
    9. Physics ignores measurement
    10. History is written by the victors

    …and you can’t teach any of that because (drum roll please), you create cynics. Cynicism is the enemy of the state. ..and besides, you don’t need to be cynical about that stuff. Well, at least if your school library is not as desolate as Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s. :)

    Which brings me to maybe a number 11: If they load you down with Crap at private school, when does one have time to pick up the Alternate Readings at the school library?

    Inquiring minds want to know.

  3. Jeff K says:

    I was in a rush this morning. A search on the Web turns up that a private school called “Ridley” in Ontario has an interesting physics program actively dealing with measurement.

    Most of the others, however, offer “Centuries old liberal arts” educations. i.e. crap.

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