Friday, June 27, 2008

Protest AFT Censorship: Tries to Exclude Substance

Is this how Randi Weingarten will allow her stewardship of the AFT to begin?
I'm betting she won't. But I'm not betting a large amount.

To Janet Bass, ( AFT:

I was informed of your attempt to keep Substance from covering the AFT convention, claiming it is not legitimate press. You seem to have shifting rules about what constitutes press coverage.

I find that ironic since I was issued press credentials in 2004 for my work for The Wave, a local paper in New York and Education Notes, which is similar to Substance. I sat next to Mike Antonucci from the Educational Intelligence Agency, which the AFT considers legitimate press.

Substance has covered education in Chicago - ask Mayor Daley and CTU chief Marilyn Stewart. Even the White House issued press credentials to Substance when George Bush came to Chicago.

How sad that the AFT is more restrictive than George Bush.

Substance will have a presence at the convention in some way and it will not serve the AFT in a positive manner if the question of how the AFT issues press credentials becomes an issue.

I am CC'ing Randi Weingarten, the next president of the AFT, who despite enormous disagreements with Education Notes, has always been open and supportive of my attempts to cover events in the UFT.

Norman Scott
Editor and Publisher
Education Notes

Education Editor
The Wave

If you agree that Substance should be given press credentials to the AFT convention, email Janet Bass ( and cc Randi Weingarten.

Read George Schmidt's full explanation and scads of examples on how Substance is legit press at Norms's Notes.

Here is George's email exchanges and more examples of the work Substance does.

Colleagues and Friends:

As I suspected, the bureaucracy of the American Federation of Teachers under president Ed McElroy is trying, again, to exclude Substance from the AFT convention. The last time they did this was at the New Orleans convention in 1999, when Sharon and I went to New Orleans only to be told by Mr. McElroy, personally, that we were not a "legitimate news organization." As I told you when we began working to get press credentials, I suspected they may try to exclude us again, and now they are doing so.

Below is my exchange with Janet Bass, who is handling media set up for the AFT convention (which convenes in Chicago in two weeks). Please protest yourself and utilize any contacts you have -- especially AFT members -- to protest on behalf of Substance as well.

By this morning, we had seven people who were going to be covering the AFT convention, and Danny was working so that we could provide daily Web updates on the convention during the convention. We will not let them get away with this (after all, I'm still carrying that "White House Press Pool" pass Joe, Jackson and I were issued in January; who is AFT to say what a "legitimate news organization" is?), but it would be useful if the outcry causes them to simply
correct this mistake before we have to go to court about it.

Those with a sense of humor might also contact CTU President Marilyn Stewart and ask her to confirm to AFT that we are a "legitimate news organization."

Thanks for taking your time to begin responding to this promptly. Please cc all materials you send to AFT (and any AFT responses) to me here at Substance.


George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance


In a message dated 6/26/08 8:41:40 AM, writes:


June 26, 2008

To: Janet Bass, American Federation of Teachers, Washington, D.C.

From: George N. Schmidt, Editor, Substance

Re: AFT attempt to censor coverage of the 2008 AFT convention in Chicago by excluding Substance reporters and videographers.

Dear Ms. Bass:

Before this goes any further, please inform me what a "legitimate news organization" is according -- to the AFT definition. I'm afraid we've been down this road before, and it's time that AFT stopped trying to censor Substance. Now.

Although I had once had a discussion of this matter with Mr. McElroy (years ago, in New Orleans), I thought AFT had matured since then. If you can quickly correct the misinformation under which you are currently laboring, this matter
can be resolved quickly.

Hopefully, the following information will help you in your pursuit of the facts so that your policy and praxis in this matter improves, although my staff and I resent even having to discuss it with you.

Please note the following:

1. Our staff has covered professional events involving members of the teaching profession for decades. During the past five years, we have covered conference and conventions of educators including the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the National Council for the Social Studies and others. We have also covered other major political events both for print and new media. For example, last summer I covered "Yearly Kos" here in Chicago and during that time we interviewed or questioned several of the (then) Democratic Party presidential candidates.

2. Locally here in Chicago, we regularly cover the news pertaining to education, including the monthly meetings of the Chicago Board of Education (one of which I covered yesterday). We have also covered labor union news on a regular
basis going back decades.

3. This summer, we will have reporters covering the major conventions, including the National Education Association. We intend to cover AFT in the same manner, albeit with more staff so that we can better serve our growing
readership, both in print and on line.

4. As I've noted to you, our publication appears in print monthly and has been publishing continuously for 33 years. You can locate PDFs of our back issues from 2002 onward at (or linked to

5. We regularly publish Web updates on the Web at We are currently updating and enhancing our web site so that we can provide daily updates from the NEA and AFT conventions. Any attempt by you or others in power at AFT will cause us to suffer loss to our business and will certainly qualify as a violation of our First Amendment rights.

6. Our staff regularly blogs at www.district

7. We have covered news in Chicago for more than 30 years (education primarily, also other) and all of our regular staff carry press passes issued by the Chicago Police Department, which issues such passes for those covering regular news and "spot news."

8. In January 2008, we were cleared to cover the White House visit of George W. Bush to celebrate the anniversary of "No Child Left Behind" here in Chicago. Although we were not part of the "Pool" (which only included the regular
traveling pool and four local reporters), we were part of the larger press corps that covered the activities of President George W. Bush during his Chicago visit. This included the landing of Air Force One at O'Hare Field, the external
coverage of the visit of the President to Chicago's Greeley Elementary School, and the President's speech on the economy at the Union League Club.

I could add to this list, but I hope this will suffice to clear up any ambiguity so that we don't have to discuss the misinformation that you are laboring under further. Please RSVP me satisfactorily on this matter so we can proceed
with the arrangements.

Since I have to continue making arrangements for both our coverage of AFT and for our Web presence at various events this summer, I will need to hear from you promptly once you have reconsidered this matter and resolved it to the satisfaction of the Bill of Rights and our mutual interests.

If you have further questions for me, please feel free to call me at 773-725-7502 so that we can resolve this before it goes much further. By your response you have forced me, as you can see, that I now have to take a few additional
steps in defense of our right to cover the news on our beat without censorship from the bureaucrats of AFT or any other entity. We have defended these rights in the past and, I promise you, we will continue to do so into the future.

Thanks for your kind consideration in this matter,

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance


  1. It's particularly remarkable that you and Antonucci get in but they exclude Substance. At this year's NYC Educator board meeting we decided to allow all comers to our convention, as long as they made the appropriate cash payment to our free donuts and prostitutes fund.

  2. It's amazing they question Substance's legitimacy.

    Substance has far more legitimacy than UFT management, which circumvents democracy in our union every which way they can.

  3. Free the Dunkin' Donut 7.


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