What made a 3-year old education video suddenly jump to over 250,000 views and 5,000 comments, after having just 30,000 views in its first three years of existence? In short, we don’t know.
Our 2014 whistleblower interview with former New Jersey teacher Lee McNulty started with some key advantages. McNulty’s allegations of out-of-control student misbehavior at JFK High School in Paterson, NJ, was picked up by the two largest newspapers in New Jersey, the Star-Ledger and the Record, both of which embedded our video in their reporting. The video was also promoted by local blogs, like SaveJersey.com. Separately, McNulty was interviewed by the television program Chasing News, (which unfortunately chose to omit any mention of Choice Media’s role in breaking the story).
But that doesn’t explain this year.
We noticed a sudden, rapid spike in the view count starting in March, along with an associated increase in comments. The only thing that changed was that Mr. McNulty released a few YouTube videos of his own, where he cited passages from his new book about his experiences as a teacher — although those view counts are still quite small compared to the increase in view counts of the original interview. Could his new videos have somehow triggered the Google/YouTube algorithm to show the Choice Media production some more “Up Next” love, presented to the immediate right of lots of other education clips? Perhaps. Or, on the other hand, maybe the matter received a high profile mention of which we were never aware. At any rate, we’ll take it.
Back when the Choice Media video was first released in November, 2014, the school district dismissed McNulty’s stories of out-of-control student behavior as out-of-date, with Paterson Superintendent Donnie Evans assuring local media “it’s a very different school there today.” Then just two months later, in January 2015, new cell phone footage emerged of a ninth grader physically attacking a teacher. And yet again, the Paterson district’s “investigation” rendered a positive assessment of itself, concluding in 2016, to paraphrase, “nothing to see here folks.”
Writing this follow-up did give us an excuse to reconnect with Mr. McNulty and find out what he’s hearing about the district today. He says his former colleagues privately tell him that nothing has changed at the school regarding the administration’s handling of school discipline and chronic absenteeism. “They cover up the numbers as to what’s really going on there,” he says, adding that he’s hearing “kids aren’t being marked absent, no matter how late they arrive at school.”
Perhaps it’s time for another teacher to come forward. And then with any luck, maybe the next time we produce a video destined for mini-viral fame, we can hope it won’t contain the clumsy audio level shift that this video has at 12:43!