Vox presents NEA board member as mere ‘high school math teacher’

January 6, 2022

By Tim Worstall

If a teachers’ union official tells us that teachers’ salaries should be higher, then we’re not very surprised. That’s what union officials are there for, after all.

This is why, if Vox interviews a teacher, the piece should tell us if she’s a union official. Which it does not manage to do.

Vox uses Sobia Sheikh as its major source for this piece. Teachers are overworked, what’s really needed is more money to pay teachers more and yadda, yadda. We’ve heard this all before.

Sheikh is the source for nine substantial quotes in the piece and, of course, the conclusion is “’Beyond better pay for teachers and staff, districts need to ensure they have a manageable workload,’ Sheikh said.” More money for less work — who wouldn’t like that? 

Sheikh is described as “a high school math teacher in Washington state.” She is, but that’s only part of the story.

Sheikh is also on the list of National Education Association award winners for 2021, which could just be an accolade for fine teaching. She’s one of the NEA board members for Washington. She has certainly run for office as NEA director for the Washington Education Association. Linked here is her election pitch.

Sheikh’s views on anything and everything are as valid as those of any of us. However, it is normal for news outlets to flag those who have a specific connection to a specific line of argument, on the grounds that we will be less than informed if someone who is, say, a teachers’ union official, or has been in the running to be one, argues for higher teachers’ wages without our knowing of the union connection.

It’s even possible that being interviewed by Vox on the subject will aid Sheikh in gaining higher office — who knows? 

Vox should do better than this. It’s a major news source for the young these days, proclaiming its job to be “explaining the news.” It’s just outside the top 100 new sites and gains some 20 million visits a month. Adherence to basic journalistic practice – indicating relevant interests for sources for a story – would be helpful here.

Union sources telling us that union members should be paid more is not exactly an impartial piece of news commentary. This is why we should be told these things. 

Don’t be too hard on Vox though. That paragon of liberal and progressive journalism, NPR, made exactly the same mistake with Sheikh two months back.   


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