Rhee "Normalizes" Dealings With Post Reporter
There’s been a thaw in the once-icy relationship between D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and Post education reporter Bill Turque.
For roughly a year, Rhee had refused to talk to Turque because of unhappiness with his coverage.
But in an online chat with Post readers on Tuesday, she indicated the freeze is over. Asked why she agreed to cooperate for a cover story in last Sunday’s Post Magazine by Post enterprise editor Marc Fisher “when you appear to have a policy of not speaking to Bill Turque,” she replied: “I’ve emailed with Bill Turque 5 times today alone. If that’s lack of access, then we’re in trouble.”
Turque confirmed that “relations have been normalized.”
“It’s never going to be wine and roses,” he said. “But it’s certainly a much more functional relationship than it was. It’s much more of a normal, semi-satisfying relationship that you typically have with a public official where you get some answers and you get some non-answers.”
I wrote a column about the friction in mid-June. It noted that it's "not uncommon for public officials to temporarily slam the door on reporters who upset them. But this is unusual. Rhee’s effort to transform the public schools is arguably the biggest story in the District and has gained national attention. Her pique has lasted months. Turque is the only reporter who covers her full time. And he works for a powerful hometown newspaper whose coverage is essential to taxpaying readers with a stake in the issue.”
Shortly after that, The Post’s new education editor, Craig Timberg, approached Rhee, and the two held what he described as a “frank and open” private discussion.
That led to a July 15 face-to-face meeting with Turque at her North Capitol St. office. “She basically said that there’s probably a better way for us to interact and it’s in everybody’s interest," Turque recalled today.
As a result, Rhee’s comments and views are showing up in more Post stories about the D.C. schools.
“I feel like we’re hearing her voice in stories where we ought to hear her voice,” said Timberg. “I think that’s made the coverage better and more balanced. It serves both our readers and the school district.”
Like Turque, Timberg said the relationship has been “normalized.”
It’s in the nature of these things for public officials to get irritated at reporters,” he said. “If she’s mad (about a story), we’ll talk about it. I feel that the lines of communication are open in a way that they haven’t been in some time.”
| September 30, 2009; 3:47 PM ET
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