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David Sirota Joins Union-controlled Capital & Main

Los Angeles-based “news outlet” seeks national audience with new hire

Capital & Main, a Los Angeles-based non-profit media outlet controlled by a group of labor unions –  including the California Teachers Association and California School Employees Association – has hired David Sirota to lead a new national investigative desk that the organization is launching this summer.

In many ways, the Sirota-Capital & Main marriage is a perfect fit. As I revealed in a post last fall, Capital & Main is essentially a front for organized labor trying to pass itself off as a legitimate news outlet. Their board is packed with representatives from CTA, CSEA, SEIU, as well other union-funded groups. Capital & Main has also received significant funding from unions, including the California Federation of Teachers.

Some of the unions represented on Capital & Main’s board of directors.

Nevertheless, Capital & Main has consistently failed to disclose their close ties to labor in their reporting, which almost invariably promotes the unions’ talking points. Their education coverage, in particular, has been completely one-sided with incessant attacks on charter schools and other education reforms.

Soon after I published my piece bringing attention to their transparency problems, Capital & Main briefly appended disclosures to their articles, acknowledging that “several of the unions cited or quoted in this series are financial contributors to Capital & Main.” However, those disclosures have since either disappeared or have been tucked away within their stories.

As for Sirota, while he presents himself as a investigative journalist, he has instead built a reputation as the enfant terrible of the populist left, someone more interested in bomb-throwing than getting his story right. For example, he once praised Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez for bringing about an “economic miracle” in that country, a claim that would no doubt elicit cynical laughter from those now living in the dystopian nightmare that is Venezuela. He also incessantly attacked Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign, while failing to acknowledge his past ties to her primary challenger, Bernie Sanders.

Although these sort of stories play well with the Democracy Now! crowd, his bombastic approach has drawn criticism from mainstream journalism. FiveThirtyEight founder Nate Silver has accused Sirota of “playing fast and loose with the truth” and has called his arguments “self-righteous, accusatory, and oversimplistic.” Meanwhile, Brendan Nyhan, a professor of political science at Dartmouth and contributor to The Upshot at the New York Times, has said Sirota’s “rhetoric makes Bill O’Reilly look subtle.”

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Does The Guardian Really Consider This Journalism?

Earlier this year, Sirota resigned from his post at the International Business Times, where he had served as a senior writer for the past four years. Before his move to IBT, he was a staff writer at PandoDaily, until he was abruptly fired in 2014 at the behest of the news site’s investors.

In January, it was announced that Sirota had been tapped to lead Shareblue Media, an initiative launched by long-time Democratic operative David Brock, which he promised would be “the left’s answer to Breitbart.” But two weeks later, Sirota suddenly backed out of the ShareBlue job after apparently disagreeing with Brock over the editorial direction of the site.

Given his past, perhaps it would have been wiser for Capital & Main to hold off on their hiring announcement until Sirota was officially on the job.


Post-script: 4/16/18

My friend Michael Vaughn reached out on Twitter to share this gem of an article from 2011, when Sirota’s wife mounted an unsuccessful bid for a seat on Denver’s school board. The piece recounts how Sirota ejected a journalist from his wife’s election night party because the reporter worked for Education News Colorado (now known as Chalkbeat), which Sirota claimed was “not a real news organization.” Sirota later defended his action, explaining that Education News Colorado was “a propaganda website with a vested interest in trying to skew media coverage.”

Read the whole ironic story by clicking the link below:

David Sirota bars Education News Colorado reporter from Emily Sirota on election night

Update about the Jimenez-Draper Carson race below. By now, you’ve heard that Anne Rowe and Allegra “Happy” Haynes won seats on the Denver Public Schools board, and that incumbent Arturo Jimenez narrowly claimed victory over reformer Jennifer Draper Carson. As for Rowe opponent Emily Sirota, you won’t read her reaction…

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Written by Peter Cook

Pete became involved in education reform as a 2002 Teach For America corps member in New Orleans Public Schools and has worked in various capacities at Teach For America, KIPP, TNTP, and the Recovery School District. As a consultant, he developed teacher evaluation systems and served as a strategic advisor to school district leaders in Cleveland, Nashville, Chattanooga, and Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. He now writes about education policy and politics and lives in New Orleans.

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