Saturday, July 27, 2013

George Schmidt: Why every Substance reporter should be proud of the work we've done

[We] knew that at the May 22 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, we were going to witness one of the greatest anti-democratic and racist attacks on public schools since Alabama Governor George Wallace declared "segregation now and segregation forever" while trying to block the integration of the public schools of Alabama more than a decade after the Brown decision. Wallace was there along with several other Southern governors -- from Virginia to Texas -- who  were following the same course, but less flamboyantly. Remember: The attacks on desegregation in the Southern schools were also an attack on public education.  ... George Schmidt
I'm inspired just reading this.

There was a time -- 2001-2004 when I hoped Ed Notes could be like Substance but got sidetracked with the formation of ICE. I wonder if I hadn't gone in that direction and just kept developing Ed Notes as an independent ed news source for NYC teachers if that wouldn't have been more valuable an organizing tool. But I do know myself -- I don't have the patience, the organizational ability, the organizing ability, the reportorial skills, and lots more missing --- including the ability to recruit a staff --- that George has had for the past 40 years. So it was done.

A group of 10 MOREs are heading to Chicago in two weeks for a conference. Very much looking forward to seeing and hanging out with George.
July 27, 2013

Colleagues, comrades, friends, and others...

1. REASONS FOR SUBSTANCE PRIDE... As your proud editor, I spent half the night working editing the two great reporting jobs by Marybeth Foley and Susan Zupan that are now on the top of the Home Page at substancenews.net -- and I'm still not finished because I want to add a dozen more photographs to help our readers understand each in context. 

As the summer of 2013 began, just about everyone who had experienced the 2012 - 2013 school year in Chicago was either tired, exhausted or more than "all of the above." We had all achieved a great deal, from the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012 through the fights against the school closings. But after CORE won the great victories in the May 17 Chicago Teachers Union election, it was soon clear that the ruling class was not going to lighten up in their struggle to privatize as many of Chicago's real public schools as possible as soon as possible. Virtually all of us knew that at the May 22 meeting of the Chicago Board of Education, we were going to witness one of the greatest anti-democratic and racist attacks on public schools since Alabama Governor George Wallace declared "segregation now and segregation forever" while trying to block the integration of the public schools of Alabama more than a decade after the Brown decision. Wallace was there along with several other Southern governors -- from Virginia to Texas -- who  were following the same course, but less flamboyantly. Remember: The attacks on desegregation in the Southern schools were also an attack on public education. So the hypocritical votes of the six members of the Chicago Board of Education at the May 22 meeting to close 49 schools and "co-locate," "turnaround," and screw more than a dozen others (while simultaneously adding more to the charter schools) was no surprise. 

At the same time, we began hearing from people in Connecticut after a court there ruled that Paul Vallas didn't have the credentials to be a school superintendent in that state. And that's what I want to remind us of today...

2. SUBSART AS A 'FIRST ROUGH DRAFT OF HISTORY.' One of the reasons why it has become so important for those of us who report for Substance to do our jobs quickly, thoroughly, and with lots of graphics within a day or two of the event we are reporting (or analyzing) is that we are forced to move on quickly. Tomorrow we have new stories to report. We are covering the most important "beat" in the struggle for democracy and public education in the USA today: Chicago. The integrity of our reporting enables people to go "back" and find information they can't get anywhere else. The Vallas situation is one case in point I'd like to share (again). We began out presence on the Web (at the "old" site, substancenews.com) in early 2002 with our special issue, "The Paul Vallas Hoax" at the time Vallas was trying to get the Democratic Party nomination for Governor of Illinois. We were just learning to use the Web, and had to make major revisions in our web site to fully utilize the capacity of the Web to do graphics. We didn't get that capacity until 2007. Since then, we have all learned almost as fast as we need to keep up with the technology. Over time, most of us have mastered digital photography (remember when we used to share those one-use Fuji cameras, and when Kodak was King?) as well as honed our reporting skills. At the same time, I've learned how to edit better, especially how to maximize the "search" tagging for all of our stories. As a result, over time we are contacted more and more as people across the USA (and some from elsewhere on Earth) look for the alternative history of "school reform" in Chicago. The latest is Bridgeport, where the Vallas Hoax is in a new iteration. 

But the key is that every day our reporting, tedious as it may be, brings in the latest chapters. We miss more stories nowadays than we can cover, but that's a tribute to the organizing in Chicago (and elsewhere in some cases). We might have covered more of the dozens of school closing hearings, and recent protests, but we are still covering as much as anyone.

Which brings us to...

3. THE FEDERAL COURT CASE AGAINST SOME OF THE CLOSINGS. The current federal court case against some of the school closings (because they are a violation of the ADA and IDEA) is just the latest in the court cases we have had to cover (or miss) going all the way back to our landmark 1980 case (S.U.B.S. v. Rohter) which established our right to sell Substance in Chicago's public schools. Susan Zupan's coverage of that case was doubtless stressful, but the fact is we are now the only news organization that has complete coverage (to date) of that very very important case. Reading the reporting (and virtually having a front row seat to the testimony, which the reporting "brings alive"), I knew that over time, despite its length, our reports would be central to people's understanding of the case. I had heard from others in addition to Susan that the Board's witnesses were weak and duplicitous, but only after reading the report on Markay Winston's doubletalk did I fully realize what that means. And as you can see from the way I've shared graphics to highlight the history of Winston's ascension to the "cabinet" in Chicago from her Cincinnati roots, we are the only news organization that can tell a story in context as well as with the facts.

4. THE BOARD MEETINGS UNDER RAHM'S REGIME. 
Never underestimate the willingness of tyrants to expand their tyranny. As Marybeth Foley is reporting this month, for the first time I know of, fewer than half the total number of speakers signed up to speak at a monthly meeting of the Chicago Board of Education actually got to speak. As we've reported, almost exclusively, under David Vitale the Board has worked overtime, and sneakily, to undermine every aspect of public participation. At the same time, they rehearse their talking points and smiles proclaiming over and over and over that they want more "transparency." Etc. BlahBlahBlah... 

Thanks for making this a wonderful summer, despite the nastiness we are organizing against and reporting about...

George Schmidt, Editor   

DON'T GET DISCOURAGED.   

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating).