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Jordan Weissmann: Hack


What on earth has happened to the Atlantic? It’s become embarrassing, especially considering the century and a half of great authors who have published there. It still occasionally publishes some very good pieces and I really like Ta-Nehisi Coates, but in the internet age the grand old magazine has evidently decided to split the difference between Slatepitches and the Washington Post op-ed page. It has gone all in for corporate shilling, hosting any number of big corporate events that potentially compromise its journalistic integrity. Here’s an example of how the Atlantic pitches this stuff. Among the speakers the Atlantic has hosted: union-buster Michelle Rhee.

As far as the hackish writers go, we all know about Caitlin Flanagan and Megan McArdle. But we have a new arrival in the battle for the Atlantic’s most hackish writer: Jordan Weissmann. His relative anonymity is blown out of the water by this story on supposedly indulgent out-of-touch teacher unions in Buffalo. Weissmann writes Mitt Romney some Republican debate talking points about teacher unions by blowing up the fact that Buffalo teachers have reconstructive surgery covered by their insurance. Equating Buffalo teachers with Beverly Hills starlets getting breast implants, Weissmann paints a picture of union greed.

Where to start here? The sexism of the photo published at the top of the article? That Weissmann provides not a single example of what any of these teachers used the benefit for during this supposed boom in plastic surgery of recent years, not to mention any comprehensive data? That he doesn’t bother to interview a single union member for his piece? That he doesn’t explore any other possible way for Buffalo balance the budget? That he doesn’t explore how much money Buffalo school administrators make? You have to especially love this bit, showing the sheer temerity of those fat cat union leaders:

In 1996, the rider was nearly cut. But after the daughter of a district employee was hurled through a windshield during a car wreck, requiring surgery to repair scars on her face and body, union officials lobbied to keep the benefit in place.

How dare those corrupt unionists demand that this woman not be disfigured for life!!!! I now totally support right to work a person to death laws!

Weissman of course follows with this all the evidence-free claims, the one-sided reporting, the disinterest in actually exploring what these surgeries were used for.

And of course, what does the average teacher in Buffalo make a year? $52,000!!! Talk about the 1%!!!!!!!! And I assume this means the average starting salary for a teacher is, what, in the high 30s or low 40s?

Here is a more balanced story on the matter. Note that the union has not rejected getting rid of the program, but argues it needs to be part of a comprehensive agreement. This totally makes sense–what union just gives back benefits without sitting down and hashing everything out? That would be counter to what a union fundamentally does. We’ll give back the benefit and you give us something else. Negotiation. But it’s far easier for Weissmann to provide a Republican talking point than engage in real journalism.

The most important point: if you are a journalist working for a major publication and writing a piece attacking unions and you can’t be bothered to call the union office and ask for a comment, you are a grade A hack.

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