New York Times reporter James McKinley Jr. was in Austin to cover a controversy over school curriculum in Texas, with conservatives on the state Board of Education trying to soften the liberal tone of the state's textbooks and include more records of conservative accomplishments. His Thursday story, "Texas Conservatives Seek Deeper Stamp on Texts," was positively sodden with "conservative" labels, yet he managed to ignore a radical leftist group featured in an accompanying photo.
The article included two photos accompanied by a caption (including the one above, by Jack Plunkett of Associated Press): "Diana Gomez, center, and Garrett Mize, right, and other University of Texas students rallied against conservatives at a State Board of Education meeting Wednesday in Austin, Tex. The board's chairman, Gail Lowe, left, is one of the conservatives."
Though McKinley was sufficiently attuned to get the names of Gomez and Mize, he didn't bother to identify the group they were involved with, even thought a close look at the sign Gomez was holding makes it obvious. In the bottom right corner was the phrase "MEChA." As in the "Chicano" nationalist movement MEChA, the Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, translates as the Chicano Student Movement of Aztlan.
"Atzlan" is the name given to a swath of Western states annexed from Mexico during the Mexican-American war that MEChA and other radical groups feel they have a legal claim on, a position that's even too far for another left-wing Latino advocacy group, The National Council of La Raza ("the race").
McKinley worked at least one "conservative" label into a majority of the article's 18 paragraphs. There were 13 "conservative" labels in all, not counting one in quoted material, two in the photo caption and the one in the headline. That's a lot of repetition for a story only 732 words long. A sample:
The board is expected to take a preliminary vote this week on a raft of changes to the state's social studies curriculum proposed by the seven conservative Republicans on the board. A final vote will come in May.
Conservatives argue that the proposed curriculum, written by a panel of teachers, emphasizes the accomplishments of liberal politicians -- like the New Deal and the Great Society -- and gives less importance to efforts by conservatives like President Ronald Reagan to limit the size of government.
"There is a bias," said Don McLeroy, a dentist from College Station who heads up the board's conservative faction. "I think the left has a real problem seeing their own bias."
The three-day meeting is the first time the board has met since voters in last week's Republican primaries voted to oust Dr. McLeroy and another conservative and threw the future makeup of the board up in the air. Two other members -- a conservative Republican and a moderate Democrat -- are not seeking re-election, and it is unclear what the balance of power will be after the general election. At present, the seven hard-core conservatives are often joined by one or more moderate members in votes on curriculum questions.
Dr. McLeroy still has 10 months to serve and he, along with rest of the religious conservatives on the board, have vowed to put their mark on the guidelines for social studies texts.
For instance, one guideline requires publishers to include a section on "the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract with America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association."
The Texas-based McKinley has a habit of loading his stories with labels identifying conservative Texas Republicans as "far right" "archconservatives."