Cleveland, Mississippi, that is: On May 18, the New York Times published a news report about the public schools of Cleveland, Mississippi. To read that report, click here.
More specifically, the Times was reporting the order of a federal judge concerning the racial enrollment patterns in the city's middle schools and high schools. (The city has two of each.)
As we noted in real time, we thought the Times report was grossly misleading. And last weekend, sure enough!
Last Saturday, the Times published a second, much more detailed report about the same subject. This new report appeared atop the Times' front page. It was much more informative, and much less misleading, than the first report in May.
Why don't we just come out and say it? Once again, your incomparable Daily Howler had banged out those results!
Let's just talk Tom Turkey! Richard Fausset's front-page report examines the way some southern cities are trying to keep their public school systems from becoming all black.
Readers can judge such strategies as they will. But in the first report in May, Times readers were given little way to know how the Cleveland schools were operating at all.
As we noted in May, that first report came straight outta a framework the New York Times dearly loves. In such reports, it's still 1955 in the Deep South, and the hopeless, benighted yahoos and bigots are still (in this case) trying to run a dual school system.
As you can learn in the new report, the matter isn't nearly that simple. We suspect this new report was a "non-correction correction"—an unstated acknowledgment by the Times that its first report was grossly misleading.
Which it plainly was.
We read the new report with interest. Decent people ought to care about the efforts of school districts like this, even if it means that we don't get to read one of our favorite novels, the one about the crackers who aren't all decent and fine, the way we are Up Here.
(The New York Times loves that novel.)
Liberal readers might even have a rare experience when they read Fausset's front-page report. From his report, we might begin to see that black leaders in some of these Southern communities are crafting and endorsing the policies the Times is inclined to distort.
Beyond that, liberal readers can even imagine, from a passage like the one shown below, that people on the other team may conceivably be right in their judgments every once in a while. In this passage, a Cleveland resident rolls his eyes at the supposed wisdom of a federal judge:
FAUSSET (6/11/16): [W]ould a change in the status quo lead to progress or turmoil? Saul Brown, 50, a black resident, contemplated the possibilities on a warm, quiet weeknight in front of an east-side grocery store.In that passage, a Cleveland resident complains about the intervention of a pointy-headed federal judge. But the resident in question is black! There goes a favorite old novel!
Mr. Brown graduated from East Side High, and a son is enrolled there now. In general, he said, he was pleased with the system in place now. ''We done worked it out ourselves,'' he said. ''By messing with it, they're going to pull off all kinds of scabs.''
Would that judge's "desegregation order" really improve the Cleveland schools? In our view, it's not at all clear that it would. At any rate, Fausset did an excellent job laying out the basic facts of this difficult case.
Those facts include the funding of the schools in question and the matter of enrollment patterns and policies. According to Fausset's report, none of these facts turn out the way the novel says they should.
In May, the Times report was a tired old novel, a novel Times readers are trained to enjoy. This new report seemed like a real attempt to describe the facts of the case.
It matters what happens in districts like this! In its unacknowledged non-correction correction of an earlier bungled report, we'd have to say that the New York Times has started to get it right.