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Archive for July, 2014

The difference between an overarching presentation of a big story and a parochial one couldn’t have been clearer than in The Kansas City Star’s and The New York Times’ coverage today of developments in the world of for-profit colleges.

The contrasting coverage highlights the effects of the downturn of fortunes for most big-city daily newspapers.

Where we have landed, after all these years of the newspaper industry’s precipitous decline, is that readers of most metropolitan dailies’ print and online editions get cheated because they get a narrow, incomplete view of many stories with broad and deep implications.

Such is the case with the story of Corinthian Colleges Inc., one of the country’s largest operators of for-profit colleges and trade schools. One of Corinthian’s main brands is its Everest colleges, one of which is located at 92nd Street and State Line Road in Kansas City.

corinthianWith that backdrop, let’s take a look at The Star’s coverage of the U.S. Department of Education’s recent crackdown on Corinthian, which basically under-educates students and over-promises jobs, while relying on — and getting rich on — federal student aid that accounts for the vast majority of its revenue.

 

The Star

A locally written story on Page A-7 of today’s Star carries this headline: “Everest College to carry on despite sale.”

The headline clearly signals that the story’s focus is the fate of the 92nd and State Line school, not the national scandal surrounding for-profit colleges, especially Corinthian.

In his lead paragraph, staff writer Brian Burnes (a good hand whose work I formerly edited) reports that “Operations at Everest College in Kansas City will continue as usual…even though the facility is among the 85 schools currently listed as being for sale by its corporate parent, Corinthian Colleges Inc.”

The second paragraph goes like this:

“The first thing we wanted to make sure of is that all of our students were able to continue their education without any delay or additional costs,” said Kent Jenkins Jr., a national spokesman for Corinthian. “That is the case at Kansas City Everest.”

After reading those reassuring words, I guess Star readers are supposed to wipe their brows, jump up from their kitchen tables and say, “Well, thanks be to God!”

The only hint in Burnes’ 11-paragraph story of what has been afoot at Corinthian comes in the fourth paragraph:

“Last month Corinthian…announced that education officials had limited its access to federal funds after it failed to provide documents and other information. Critics had accused the corporation of altering student attendance information and job-placement rates.”

Note how Burnes backed into the unsavory aspect of Corinthian’s dealings. First, instead of stating the situation as fact, Burnes has Corinthian announcing that the education department had imposed sanctions. Second, he says critics had accused the corporation of wrongdoing.

Now, let’s take a look at the flip side of this story.

The Times

The paper’s leading editorial carries this headline: “Lessons of a For-Profit College Collapse.”

Well, now, collapse? That puts things in a whole new light, at least for me.

…Before going any further, I will readily acknowledge that what a writer can say in an editorial and what he or she can say in a straight news story varies greatly: One is opinion, the other is arm’s-length reporting.

Nevertheless, the contrast in basic information provided by The Times and The Star is jaw dropping.

Here, for example, is The Times’ factual description of  the Corinthian mess:

“Corinthian, which is being investigated by federal regulators and by several states, has finally come to a kind of reckoning. It has reached an agreement with the Department of Education to shut down or sell about 100 campuses during the coming months.” 

Burnes could have written essentially the same thing, but he didn’t. In addition, The Times didn’t back into the company’s difficulties; it let the investigators hand down the incriminating allegations:

“According to federal officials, the company refused to turn over data that would have allowed it to determine how well students were succeeding and actually admitted to falsifying job placement and or grade and attendance records at various locations.”

Falsified records? Compare that with Burnes’ words — “altering student attendance information…”

There’s more. The Times also cited a lawsuit filed last year by the California attorney general in which the a.g. alleged that Corinthian “deliberately singled out low-income single parents who lived near the poverty line, urging recruiters to focus on ‘isolated’ people who had ‘low self-esteem.’ ”

In sum…

The Times’ editorial leads me to believe that the operators of Corinthian Colleges Inc. are a bunch of scheming, greedy bums. Burnes’ story, on the other hand, makes it look like Corinthian administrators merely hit a speed bump.

Pretty bad, wouldn’t you agree?

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We’re just back from five days on Cape Cod (our first trip there) with my aunt and uncle who live outside Boston.

I never really expected to get to Cape Cod, but one of Aunt Nanette’s and Uncle Jim’s four adult children — a son who is an executive with a Hong Kong-based investment holding company — owns (along with his wife) a rental/vacation home on Cape Cod, and it wasn’t rented over the July 4 weekend.

So, the four of us loaded up Uncle Jim’s 2003 Saab — loaded so full that the view from the rearview mirror was completely blocked — and headed east.

I’ve got lots of photos for you, but, for orientation purposes, here’s a map that will help put things in context. (Sorry, you can’t “click on an area to zoom in.”)

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My cousin’s house is in Yarmouth, which offers excellent access to the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, via Hyannis Port, which is south of Yarmouth.

I didn’t make it to Martha’s Vineyard, but only because I was so entranced by Nantucket that, after Patty and I spent one day there, I went back by myself for a second day and rode a bike out to ‘Sconset Beach on the east side of the island.

Now, let’s get on to those photos!

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Three-fourths of the cast of characters: Patty, Uncle Jim and Aunt Nanette, on the deck of the house in Yarmouth.

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About a quarter-mile from the house in Yarmouth was Gray’s Beach, which isn’t all beach.

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The boardwalk at Gray’s Beach.

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Some kids used a platform and railing at the outer end of the boardwalk as their personal diving platform.

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Day One at Nantucket. A section of the harbor.

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One of at least three bike-rental places on Nantucket Island. (Note the slogan.)

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Downtown Nantucket is quaint…but very expensive!

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Main Street and small sections of other streets, including this one, feature the original cobblestone.

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From the top window of the First Congregational Church, Nantucket’s downtown stretches out before your eyes…if you’re willing to climb up 97 steps, that is. Not I!

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Built in 1686, this is the oldest house on Nantucket Island. An early Nantucket settler named Peter Coffin had it built for his son, Jethro Coffin, and his bride, Mary Gardner. (Note the elongated back roof line, in the so-called “saltbox” style.)

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Fast forward to July 3, 2014. That’s Rosanne Cash after an afternoon sound check at the Dreamland Performing Arts Center in Nantucket. She performed there that evening. (Photo by Patty Fitzpatrick)

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In the early afternoon of July 4, an ominous sky formed over Chatham Beach, at the southeastern corner of Cape Cod. The tail of Tropical Storm Arthur was closing in. That night and into the morning of Saturday, July 5, the wind howled and rain hammered the Cape.

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Two TV news crews that had come over to Chatham from Boston drew a crowd…Before going on the air live at noon, the reporter in the black shirt mentioned that he had not been scheduled to work the holiday…Such is life in the news biz.

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By the afternoon of Saturday, July 5, the skies had cleared and people were out in force on Marconi Beach, along the Cape Cod National Seashore in Wellfleet.

 

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In the surf.

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Up and down the beach, people were asking each other, “Who is that photographer?”

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Day Two on Nantucket…The bike trail to the town of Siasconset and ‘Sconset Beach.

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This stand of tall, lush grass along the bike trail brought me to an abrupt halt.

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When I saw this guy pushing himself along the shore line on Quidnet Pond, not far from Siasconset, I again interrupted my bike ride. Turns out the man — who’s name is Fulvio — had retrieved the board after Tropical Storm Arthur had pulled it loose from its mooring near his house. He found it deep in the grass on the opposite side of the pond…It’s not a small pond, either.

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This house also brought me to a screeching halt…To tell you the truth, I’m thinking about buying it — price is no object — and moving to Nantucket in a couple of weeks. (Watch this space for further developments on that.)

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Another part of my plan is to join the Sankaty Head Golf Club, where golfers tee off next to Sankaty Head Lighthouse. The club is private, but I’m counting on them letting me in, seeing as how I’m a famous blogger.

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After a two-hour bike ride, I finally made it to the town of Siasconset, where just about everyone would like to be “ensconced,” I would think.

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I saw just one member of the “ensconsed” family.

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A lone, narrow road leads to the limited, public portion of ‘Sconset Beach.

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And then, magically, peacefully, I was there.

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…and it was hard to pull myself away.

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But two and a half hours later — after catching the bus back to downtown Nantucket and enjoying a late lunch at a  brew pub — I was boarding the boat to return to Hyannis and Yarmouth.

…This morning, we packed the car again and departed Cape Cod. Aunt Nanette and Uncle Jim dropped me and Patty at Boston Logan International Airport for the return trip to Kansas City. But in my mind, as you can see, I haven’t landed…

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Photo by Patty Fitzpatrick.

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