Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Teach For America and The Observer

I've been writing about connections between donors and public education lately, so I figured I should put this on the table: The Charlotte Observer was one of the sponsors of the Teach For America luncheon that drew more than 900 people yesterday, and which I covered.

I don't know details of the sponsorship; such decisions are made by Publisher Ann Caulkins and the business side of the Observer. I know what I read in the program: Bank of America and Wells Fargo were the biggest sponsors of the first-time event to raise awareness and support. Piedmont Natural Gas was listed as "green sponsor," and the Observer was one of three "event sponsors," along with Hendrick Motorsports and Hendrickcars.com.

Given the strong feelings that swirl around TFA, pro and con, some will probably wonder whether the connection affects news coverage. The publisher invited me to attend, and yes, that does boost the odds that I'll show up for an event in this hectic season. But I got no coverage directives from the publisher or my upper-level editors. My immediate supervisor, Mike Gordon, and I decided it was worth an article, given the crowd size, the interest in TFA and the prominence of the speaker. No one else weighed in on how to present the information, or on TFA coverage in general.

None of this is stop-the-press news. The Observer sponsors a number of public events that get news coverage. I just figured this is a good way of making sure everything's in the open with readers of this blog, who are a lot like reporters in ferreting out connections and asking questions.

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