City Desk

More on WaPo’s Pro-Fenty Editorializing

Yesterday, the redoubtable Loose Lips took something of a swing at the Washington Post editorial board for its inexcusable editorial covering the ass of Mayor Adrian M. Fenty. At issue is the enrollment of his twin sons at Lafayette Elementary School in upper Northwest, a facility that's quite a ways from the Fenty family's neighborhood school, West Elementary School.

Ever since the Fenty kids surfaced Aug. 24 at Lafayette, everyone has wanted to know how it happened—did the mayor pull a power move? Follow procedures? What?

In repeated interview attempts, the mayor has declined comment, saying it's a question of privacy for the kids. Reporters like WTOP's superlative Mark Segraves have pushed the mayor hard on the matter; Fenty has pushed back just as hard.

Into the standoff stepped the Post, with an apparent attempt to play conciliator. There's an "explanation" for all of this, said the editorial.

Mr. Fenty's neighborhood school, West Elementary, has only one fourth-grade class. Most studies show that twins, particularly if they are of the same gender, should be in separate classes for both learning and social development. That's apparently why Ms. Rhee — using a process employed for other families in similar circumstances — assigned the boys to Lafayette, where the existence of four fourth-grade classes made it easy to accommodate them.

Apparently? What does that mean? Does that mean that that the Post editorial board knows this to be the case? Or is it just guessing, providing an explanation?

If it's the former—if the edit board has a scoop here—then it should say so, within the four corners of its editorial. If not—if it's just a possible explanation—then the board should take a close look at what it's doing here. Playing the role of flack for the Fenty administration, that is.

In the past, the Post editorial board has done wonderful work pushing the secretive Fenty-Nickles team to bring their work out into the light of day.

That's the issue here: A stonewalling mayoral administration wants to hide behind excuses and bluster—I'm not going to talk about my kids!!!—to screw the public out of information that it deserves to have. And the Post is lending a hand.

Through the entire Fenty administration, the Post has been a cheerleader for the efforts of Fenty and schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee to retool one of the country's worst school systems. That's a fair viewpoint. But if the edit board is really concerned about how the reforms play out, it should be all over the slightest evidence that the reformists are abusing their vast authority or otherwise betraying the public trust. Not making excuses–or even explanations–for their opacity.

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  • Charlie

    West is the local school in my area (the Mayor lives just a few blocks away) and I haven't heard a peep on the neighborhood listserv about this. I suspect most people in the city think this is a non-issue.

  • Arthur Delaney


  • EG

    Has anyone bothered to see whether Lafayette was at capacity in the fourth grade and whether any other families were denied a chance to get in to that school because of the Mayor?

    If the answers are no, then this is a non-issue. If the answers are yes, then we have ourselves a legitimate scandal. Just need to append -gate to something and we're good to go.

  • Truth Hurts

    Wemple's main point is an important one. Typically, WAPO reporters (and other news reporters) investigate and write about a topic. They follow certain generally accepted journalistic guidelines about sourcing, nonsourcing, verifying, etc. It's common for a WAPO editorial to follow a few days later, but the editorial normally begins with "as reported by x on y date" and continues on from there.

    No investigative news story preceeded WAPO's editorial offering "an innocent explanation" about the Fenty kids. If WAPO's editorial board obtained unsourced info that influenced its editorial, it should have been disclosed to WAPO's readers. In my view, not doing so would undermine the integrity of future WAPO editorials.