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Rhee "Normalizes" Dealings With Post Reporter

By Andy Alexander

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.”

By Andy Alexander  | September 30, 2009; 3:47 PM ET
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The relationship has been "normalized"? what is that? Is that synonomous with civil, cooperative, truthful, accessible and probably should talk to you because 2010 is around the corner? Strange terminology. This is left to the reader's interpretation. Good luck Turque!

Posted by: candycane1 | September 30, 2009 11:24 PM | Report abuse

The first time The Post uses loaded language (for example, The Post's use of "partial birth abortion" instead of a more neutral term) she should slam the door on the newspaper again.

Bob Griendling

Posted by: bob16 | October 1, 2009 12:04 AM | Report abuse

So the Post promised her a fluffy love fest in the Magazine and a softball Q&A in exchange that she speak to Bill Turque again?

I know the Post's editorial board doesn't send their children to the District of Columbia Public Schools, so this is going to come as a shocker to you. Please read carefully...

I'm a DCPS parent and things are worse now than they were 2 years ago. Michelle Rhee is making things harder for my children to get a decent public education.

I resent Rhee and the Post's fawning coverage of her.

Posted by: Title1SoccerMom | October 1, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

"The first time The Post uses loaded language (for example, The Post's use of 'partial birth abortion' instead of a more neutral term) she should slam the door on the newspaper again."

I guess in Bob's dictionary "more neutral" means "euphemize". The bottom line is that "partial birth abortion" is found in a federal statute passed by overwhelming majorities of both Houses. Kinda like, you know, the "stimulus", which I am sure you don't object to. In any event, Bob, the baby (oops fetus) is partially delivered (i.e., delivered in toto, other than the head, and then the head is pierced with a suction tube and the brains are sucked out). "Partial birth abortion" seems pretty descriptive.

Posted by: sobrien2 | October 1, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

To normalize this whole situation...then someone would had to view the previous interactions as abnormal. I did not find any of the articles as being it takes two to converse. Maybe the chemistry might be off...considering all of those who have been on the Washpo educational beat as the reporters...compared to those who held the Superintendent/Chancellor position...then the words abnormal and normalizes is the wrong choice...Maybe it should read that it went from a dysfunctional to a functional way of doing things.

I am just thinking that a thaw in an icy-relationship can still be damaging... Thaw too fast and flooding occurs...of which we are being bombarded with news articles regarding Rhee.

Posted by: PowerandPride | October 1, 2009 2:25 PM | Report abuse

Bill Turque's "problem" with Mrs. Rhee probably comes from his accurate reporting on her Baltimore miracle:

“Rhee has asserted that her students' standardized test scores improved markedly during her tenure. Although schoolwide scores showed improvement, there is no classroom-level data that directly support her claim. The firm's contract was discontinued after a study showed that overall, the nine schools it operated did not perform significantly better than other city schools.”

Posted by: edlharris | October 1, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

I tend to distrust a new manager who thinks the best way to success is to fire people. But this may be an exceptional case. My best plan is to wait and see how well she does. In the meantime it is good she will talk to the press. They can help her. They don't have to be the enemy.

Posted by: gary4books | October 1, 2009 8:28 PM | Report abuse

sobrien2, um, do you mean "euthanize" instead of "euphemize?"

Posted by: DennisJaffe | October 2, 2009 12:53 AM | Report abuse

To DennisJaffe,

I'm guessing the use of a dictionary is a one of those simple tasks someone of you intellect has difficulty mastering.

The word euphemize fits perfectly in the context used by sobrien2 and describes exactly what Bob16 wants the Post to do, that is, to use kinder, gentler language rather than a term that accurately (albeit offensively to him) describes pulling out a fully-developed fetus up to its neck, piercing its skull and sucking out its brains.

Posted by: alvint | October 2, 2009 7:12 AM | Report abuse

Typical media self-absorbtion.

Posted by: crw3 | October 2, 2009 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Thank you alvint. Dennis, I meant the word I chose. Honestly, you clown yourself with comments like that.

By the way, Applebaum is getting crucified in the blogosphere for her factually challenged defense of Roman Polanski.

This is beyond funny:

Shame that Ms. Applebaum had to toss her credibility in the garbage for Roman Polanski--at least George Will traded in some of his credibiility for something substantial--AGW. (And yes, I think that Will rightfully got his knuckles rapped for fudging the Arctic ice sheet data.)

Posted by: sobrien2 | October 2, 2009 11:06 AM | Report abuse

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